IWB writes to DEFRA about UK position in the upcoming CITES meeting

Stephen Wiggins Speaking Out 1 Comment

The IWB has written to The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ask what the United Kingdom will be doing to protect engendered and threatened species, particularly with the forthcoming opportunity to take a stance at the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) in 2016.

IWB’s Letter – Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP_16 Sept 2015

DEFRA Response – DEFRA_29 Sept 2015

CITES(1) (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) has been in force since 1975, it now has some 181 signatory States.

The seventeenth regular meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) is scheduled to be held in South Africa, September 24 to October 5, 2016.

IWB and others are calling on respective governments (Petition to UK Government) to enhance the protection of African elephants, white rhino and African lions (other species could also be added if the evidence supports it).

CITES protection falls into three distinct categories:

  • Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants.
  • Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.
  • Appendix III is a list of species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation.

At the moment, CITES Appendix I protection for the subject species (African elephant, white rhino and African lion) is as follows(2):

  • African elephant (Loxodonta Africana) included in Appendix I, except the populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, which are included in Appendix II.

Note: Despite a ban on the international trade in ivory, African elephants are still being poached in large numbers. Since 1979, African elephants have lost over 50% of their range and this, along with massive poaching for ivory and trophies over the decades, has seen the population drop significantly. Back in the early part of the 20th century, there may have been as many as 3-5 million African elephants. But there are now around 500,000 – Source: World Wildlife Fund.


  • White rhino (Ceratotherium simum) populations in South Africa and Swaziland exempted from Appendix 1 protection.

Note: White rhino species numbers are now estimated at just 20,409

Subspecies Population
Southern white Ceratotherium simum simum 20,405
Northern white Ceratotherium simum cottoni 4

Source: Save the rhino


  • African lion (Panthera leo) populations not currently listed under Appendix I, only the Asiatic and Indian Lion (Panthera leo persica) are currently under Appendix I protection.

Note: Lions are in crisis(3). “Because lions are uniquely visible to tourists there is a false impression that they are not endangered. The opposite is true: they are disappearing in plain sight. From an estimated population of 200,000 across Africa a century ago, and 30,000 a decade ago, as few as 20,000 lions may now roam free in the entire continent. Their numbers have been devastated by loss of habitat and wild prey, poaching, conflict with farming communities, unsustainable legal hunting, and emerging threats including the use of lion bones in traditional Asian medicine. Lions are being killed daily in Africa” – Wild CRU.

Note: In March 2015, Australia(2) introduced stricter domestic measures to treat African lions as though they are listed on Appendix I of CITES. So why can’t this be done in the UK, USA and other concerned countries?

The call is for CITES Appendix I protection for all three subject species, with no exceptions to try to support the dwindling wild species evidenced. Therefore, submissions need to be prompted by CITES member countries calling for such action and transfer to comprehensive Appendix I listing.

EU regulations require each member state to designate a management authority (MA) and at least one scientific authority to oversee matters concerning CITES. In the UK, that falls to Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)(4). DEFRA communicates with the CITES Secretariat, European Commission and others and provides information to the public and trade to ensure compliance.

In the USA CITES communication falls to the US Fish and Wildlife Service(5), with relevant comments to US FWS closing on 26 October 2015. The African lion has been proposed as an addition to the Endangered Species Act list, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to ‘finalise’ the designation (and the process can take over a year to complete).

“Cecil’s Law” is the moniker of a bill introduced by a group of U.S. Senators in July 2015, named in honour of Cecil the lion (may he RIP). The “Conserving Ecosystem by Ceasing the Importations of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act,” has the intent to extend current U.S. import and export restrictions on animal trophies to include species that have been proposed for listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Current U.S. law only provides protection for species whose status on the list has been finalised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The CECIL Act would ensure that species under consideration for protection are also covered by trophy import restrictions by default. The adoption of CECIL’s law would be a welcome step in the right direction and a statement of intent.



(2) Species+ Species+

Species+, developed by UNEP-WCMC and the CITES Secretariat, is a website designed to assist Parties with implementing CITES, CMS and other multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs)

(3) Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (Wild CRU)


(5) US Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS)

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is welcoming comment in preparation for CITES 2016, by close of 26 October 2015 (i.a.w. http://www.fws.gov/policy/library/2015/2015-21033.pdf):

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS–HQ–IA–2014–0018.
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–HQ–IA–2014–0018; Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: BPHC; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

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  1. Pingback: Extinct in the Wild – The Last Male Northern White Rhino | International Wildlife Bond

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