The Convention in Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) Secretariat have released their recommendations to the Convention of Parties (CoP) who will be meeting next month in Bangkok. They have rejected proposals submitted by countries to change the protection for polar bears, elephants and rhinos.
The three big mammal species are probably the most high-profile species to be discussed at the upcoming CoP16 meeting but the proposals put forward to boost their protection have failed to impress officials at CITES who are recommending that the proposals are rejected.
The polar bear had been proposed by the United States to be moved from Appendix II to Appendix I in order to receive high levels of protection. The CITES Secretariat rejected this on the basis that it does not meet the requirements for higher listings.
The latest information about polar bears populatons are thet they are not small, they have a wide area over which to roam – several million square kilometers – and there is no indication that the population is declining markedly. As such the polar bears fails to meet the requirements for Appendix I listing as given in the guidelines. The Secretariat confirms that future projections of species population declines can be used according to the guidelines. however in the case of the polar bear the declines anticipated is dependant on sea ice cover which is highly variable. As such the officials do not believe that Appendix I listing is appropriate for the perceived threats facing the polar bear at this time.
Kenya has proposed that the hunting trophy quote of rhino horns for South Africa and Swaziland be set at zero. The Secretariat is recommending that this proposal is rejected by the CoP as it will place higher restrictions on the two countries where the rhino is on Appendix II than other rhino states where the rhino has the higher classification of Appendix I listing.
The rhino population in both South Africa and Swaziland are not in such a poor condition that would allow them to be listed under appendix I. There is no evidence given by the proposer that trophy hunting is detrimental to the populations of the rhino. The Secretariat believes that the tightening of trophy hunting in South Africa has significantly improved the control of hunting.
CITES officials believe that a zero export quote of rhino trophy could also be detrimental to the conservation of rhino as it could discourage private landowners from becoming involved in rhino conservation and also undermine current rhino conservation and management strategies.
The current conservation and management strategies have been successful in recovering the rhino population of the two countries and as such a precautionary approach needs to be undertaken to ensure those strategies remain in place.
Kenya together with Burkina Faso is also proposing that that there should be a ban in trade of ivory from African elephants for 9 years from CoP14 once the one proposed auction has taken place. The officials from CITES point out that the auction in the proposal had taken place 4 years ago. They also point out that the two decisions on banning of ivory sales that the proposal points to are both coming to an end at the end of the CoP16 period.
The Secretariat also point out that the annotations attached to the african elephant have been pt together after long drawn out negotiations to produce a continent-wide consensus. The current proposals are well understood by elephant range states and are adhered to.
The officials believe that any amendments to the African elephant listings should be taken in the same spirit of continent wide consensus and agreement. However they believe that at a time where all African states are involved with trying to reduce illegal poaching of elephants the time commitments to negotiations over amendments would divert attention and time away from the fight against poaching. As such the Secretariat recommends that proposals be rejected.