It was a win some, lose some scenario yesterday as the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) drew to a close in Johannesburg.
Some member states who wanted to win lost, and those happy they won may have lost without even knowing it. Oddly, a resolution was presented – and passed – at the conference which at its core is supposed to stop the illegal trade in wildlife that called on member countries: “… to adopt measures to prohibit, prevent, detect and counter instances of corruption and ensure that any corrupt practices associated with the administration, regulation, implementation or enforcement of Cites are punishable as criminal offences with appropriate penalties under national legislation …”.
The big losers of the conference – or winners, depending on which side of the wall you stood – were lions, elephants and rhinos.
With lions beginning to fade on the African continent – already possibly extinct in seven countries and “functionally” extinct in 15 others – a bitter behind-the-scenes fight over the value of “sustainable use” led to lions not being given top protection status.
Swaziland’s application to legalise trade in rhino horn bounced, leaving it floundering as to how it will fund protection of its growing population of rhinos.
Rhinos have been on Cites Appendix 1 since 1977, and populations have blossomed in countries with massive budgets.
African grey parrots, Barbary Macaques, Blaine’s fishhook cactus, elephants, saiga antelopes, cheetahs, helmeted hornbills, pangolins, rhinos and totoabas were all given added protection as were multiple new animals and plants, including more than 350 species of rosewood, devil rays, silky sharks and thresher sharks.
In contrast, the Cape mountain zebra, several species of crocodiles and the wood bison, among a few other species, came off Appendix 1 to Appendix 2, where trade and “sustainable use” would be conditionally allowed.
With elephant poaching at an all-time high, the pachyderm also failed to make it to Appendix 1. CoP17, said Cites secretary-general John E Scanlon, was “a game changer that will be remembered as a point in history when the tide turned in favour of ensuring the survival of our most vulnerable wildlife.”