CITES Animals Committee Convenes in Israel

Over 200 wildlife experts from around the world met in Tel Aviv in late August/early September at the 28th meeting of the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The discussion covered trade in hippopotamuses, long-tailed macaques, polar bears, and African lions, as well as various snake, bird, shark, ray and other species. Kenya indicated its intent, at the next Conference of the Parties in September 2016, to propose the Appendix I listing of the African lion, whose numbers have plummeted due to habitat loss, conflicts with humans, disease, and trophy hunting.

Meeting participants also discussed proposed improvements to the CITES Review of Significant Trade (RST) process, which evaluates the legality of trade in CITES Appendix II species (for which trade is allowed, but regulated). Controversially, the polar bear was removed from the RST, but with a recommendation that all range states establish cautious export quotas for populations that are depleted or where data on population status are lacking.

A new review process to evaluate the legality of trade in captive animals was proposed, given concerns about the fraudulent trade in “captive-bred” animals who are taken from the wild and traded using falsified documents.

AWI’s wildlife biologist, D.J. Schubert, actively participated in deliberations about the international trade in snakes—trade that is likely unsustainable (and inhumane) for a number of species. Several meeting reports noted that illegal trade in particular snake species was occurring. Nevertheless, the reports recommended legalizing such trade—a dangerous precedent.

Importantly, CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon, in his opening remarks, challenged CITES parties to strengthen consideration of animal welfare issues in international trade of live wildlife. AWI and other like-minded organizations intend to use these remarks as a springboard to expand discussion of animal welfare within CITES.