CITES CoP18 – Updates

Stephen Wiggins Article, Event 2 Comments

Banner image courtesy of CITES/Wikimedia Commons

Above image courtesy of the NSPCA

As the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), eighteenth Conference of the Parties (CoP 18) continues in Geneva (17 – 18 August 2019), there have been some significant results (with more still due in the coming week – this article will be updated accordingly).


Despite there being a majority (46 to 18) vote in to halt the ‘barbaric’ live export of baby elephants (mostly from Zimbabwe) to zoos and circuses, there is a risk that this decision could be overturned when the European Union’s (EU’s) block vote (28 members) is taken into account later next week. The reason why the EU wishes to endorse ‘barbaric’ wildlife export practices remains a mystery.

Sign World Animal Protection’s letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner Karmenu Vella

Update:  NSPCA reporting that decision to end exports upheld:

Huge sighs of relief as restrictions in the trade of live elephant was passed by 2/3 majority at CITES CoP18

Following on our post last week, the NSPCA is both relieved and delighted at the 2/3 majority vote just passed at CITES Plenary restricting the trade in live elephant. This does not completely ban the trade, but it stops the export of live African elephant outside range states unless under exceptional circumstances or for conservation purposes.

This is a huge win for elephant welfare and conservation.

The vote of last week was challenged with Zimbabwe declaring a dispute. After heated debate and a very tense nail biting Plenary session, a 2/3 majority was obtained. This will stop the capture of calves from the wild in Zimbabwe for export to China.”

In a previous article, “Proposed return to ivory and rhino horn trading,” some key proposals were summarised and the current CoP18 status is given below:

CoP18  Prop. 11 – “Rejected at Committee, 22 August 2018” – Amendment to Annotation 2 pertaining to the elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe

This submission’s proposal promotes trade in ivory and elephant derivative products. The submission proposes the removal of Annotation 2, Clause h), which potentially allows  Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to seek to trade in government registered stockpiled ivory 9 years after CoP14 and the last CITES sanctioned sale of ivory in 2008.

The counter submission, CoP 18 Prop. 12 to remove the Appendix I exemption of the elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe was also “Rejected at Committee, 22 August 2018

CoP18 Prop. 10 – “Rejected at Committee, 22 August 2018” – Zambia proposes that the population of African elephant (Loxodonta africana) of Zambia be downlisted from Appendix I to Appendix II

The concern is that this submission seeks to open up trade by downlisting Zambia’s elephants from Appendix I to Appendix II – thus allowing export permit only trade in registered raw ivory, trade in hunting trophies (supposedly) for ”non-commercial purposes” and trade in hides and leather goods.


“Black rhino, Kenya” – Courtesy of Mark Boulton (Elsa Trust and Elsamere), image by Norman Myers

CoP18 Prop. 8 – “Rejected at Committee (Rejected, 202 to 25, with seven abstentions), 25 August 2019– The Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland, which made a submission to CoP17 Prop. 07) has  resubmitted a submission, “To remove the existing annotation on the Appendix II listing of Eswatini’s southern white rhino population and for:

… Eswatini to sell from existing stock 330 kg of rhino horn to licenced retailers in the Far East and also up to 20 kg p.a., including harvested horn, to those retailers” along with arguments in support of such trade and rhino farming/horn harvesting – but with no independent science that support such trade as not risking stimulating demand and poaching. Acceptance of this submission would open the way for others (such as South Africa) to follow suit.

CoP18 Prop. 9 – Rejected at Committee (Rejected 82 to 39), 25 August 2019 – Namibia has sought via its submission to CoP18 to downlist its white rhino from Appendix I protection (to Appendix II) “For the exclusive purpose of allowing international trade in:

a) live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations; and
b) hunting trophies”

Note: The reasons given by Namibia are: “Hunting for trophies (referred to as conservation hunting in Namibia) is recognized as a valuable management tool which provides much-needed revenue for rhinoceros conservation. Trade in live animals is similarly important for income generation in support of protection measures. Transferring the population to Appendix II will enable Namibia to export live animals and hunting trophies to more countries and will increase revenue through sustainable use.”

“Hunting for trophies is recognized as a valuable management tool (sic)…” – where is the science to back that and the 100% guarantee that such income leads directly to conservation? Putting some of the income so derived into a Game Product Trust Fund does not equate to conservation.

Update: International Rhino Foundation adds “Some Southern African Development Community (SADC), including Namibia and Botswana, have threatened to withdraw from CITES because of the influence of non-state players. SADC has 16 member states which include Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others.”

Plus, it has already been reported that “South Africa (SA) gets go-ahead to increase black rhino trophy hunting,” – from five black rhinos a year to now “harvest” up to 0.5% of SA’s black rhino population – or around nine black rhino per year at today’s species’ population level.


Image courtesy of Michelle Riley – Humane Society, United States

CoP18 Prop. 5  –   “Accepted at Committee, 22 August 2019” – This proposal is to list Giraffa camelopardalis [Giraffe] in Appendix II of the Convention” thus enhancing (in theory) the species’ protection from zealous hunting attrition. The appendix listing now means that countries that export body parts from giraffes will now have to keep records of the exports and the trophy hunting of giraffes will now have to regulated (ie. there has to be some recognisable, science based hunting quota setting – in theory).

Note: South Africa, Eswatini, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, DRC and Zambia have filed “Reservations with reference to the amendments to Appendices I and II of the Convention and related communications” to self-exempt themselves from the up-listing of the giraffe to Appendix II

African Lion

Blood Lions chatted to Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy at Born Free Foundation who attended CITES CoP18, on what the outcomes of the conference means for African lions.

The discussions on lions that took place at the CITES meeting in Geneva resulted in the adoption of a number of decisions by the Parties, including for the establishment of a ‘Big Cat Task Force’ which will be tasked with helping the global community tackle illegal trade in all big cat species. The Task Force is welcome, although the fact that its terms of reference and membership won’t be decided for several months is a cause for concern – big cats can’t wait.

“Some progress was also made towards ensuring countries collaborate more effectively to conserve dwindling populations of African lions.

“However, the meeting failed to grapple with the thorny issue of legal lion bone exports originating from intensive captive breeding operations in South Africa, in spite of the considerable evidence that this trade presents a risk to wild lions. Nor did the meeting do anything to quash the immoral and corrupt practice of lion trophy hunting. Efforts to persuade governments in South Africa and beyond to bring an end to lion trophy hunting and the lion bone trade will clearly need to continue.”

Further Reading

CITES CoP18 unpacked – evaluating wins and losses for the environment,” EIA, 28 August 2019

Future of elephants hangs in balance as CITES continues in Geneva,” Don Pinnock, IOL, 26 August 2019

World’s fastest shark added to list of vulnerable species to regulate trade,” The Guardian, 31 August 2019


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  1. Pingback: Inside The Global Conservation Organization Infiltrated By Trophy Hunters – International Wildlife Bond

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