What is CITES and why should animal lovers care?
What does CITES stand for?
CITES is a global treaty regulating international trade of threatened and endangered species of wildlife and plants. CITES stands for The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires voluntary international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it aims to provide varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.
183 countries meet and debate, once every three years, whether to move animals from one Appendix listing to another.
The difference between animals listed as Appendix I vs Appendix II
Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. In general, commercial trade is prohibited, but trade for personal use may be allowed. Since hunting trophies are considered “personal use,” trade for these may still be allowed.
Appendix II includes species not necessarily considered threatened with extinction, but trade in these is controlled to prevent overutilization. Trade is allowed, for personal and commercial purposes, as long as the “harvest” is sustainable.
What determines which Appendix species are listed under?
The Conference of the Parties, known as CoP, is the supreme decision-making body of CITES. It is made up of member States that have agreed on a set of biological and trade criteria that helps in determining whether a species should be included in either Appendix I or II.
Parties submit proposals to move or list plant and animal species as amendments to the two Appendices. The amendment proposals are discussed and then submitted to a vote at the conference.
What’s happening regarding big cats at the 2016 meeting of CITES in Johannesburg?
This year, at CoP17, a proposal was drafted by four African countries to change the listing of African lions from Appendix II to Appendix I.* Other African lion ranges states review the proposal and provide comments and suggestions before the proposal is officially submitted to CITES.
Hunting and non-hunting organizations advocate their positions to government representatives. The proposals are debated at the CoP, and member States vote on the outcome. Changes to the CITES Appendices go into effect 90 days after the CoP.
* “Lions now occupy only about 8% of their historical range (which once spanned an area of over 13 million km2) and are reported to have already vanished from 12 African countries, with possible recent disappearance in another four countries. Moreover, little is known about the lions of Angola, Central African Republic, Somalia and South Sudan where civil conflict and poorly funded or maintained PAs are suspected to have driven steep declines. African lions are classified as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. However, the lions of West Africa are considered Critically Endangered, having lost nearly 99% of their historical range and with just 400 individuals (including large cubs and sub-adults—fewer than 250 are adults). Of these 400, 350 are in a single subpopulation, W-Arly-Pendjari (WAP) complex, which spans Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. West African, Central African and Asiatic lions are genetically similar and likely comprise a separate subspecies (Panthera leo leo) from the East and Southern African lion (Panthera leo melanochaita). Only six countries unequivocally harbour more than 1,000 wild lions: Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa, and Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa” – “Green With Envy,” SATIB Conservation Trust Newsletter, Edition 7 – 2016
How would changing lions’ listing affect trophy hunting?
If lions were moved to Appendix I, hunters would still be allowed to hunt lions but, to import their parts would require a CITES import permit from the hunter’s state of residence, along with a CITES export permit from the state where the lion was hunted. Commercial trade in lion parts would be prohibited.
After Cecil the lion’s death, didn’t the US and Europe already make it difficult to import lion trophies?
Though they have made it more difficult with their own regulations, if lions were moved to CITES Appendix I, this would affect hunters from all countries. Additional standards may be imposed that would make lion trophy importation even more difficult and complicated.