CITES convention passes new wildlife trade protections

Representatives from 183 nations passed proposals regarding giraffe conservation and overharvest of several species in the pet trade at the 18th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) last week in Geneva, Switzerland

Robert Wallace, the assistant Interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks and Margaret Everson, the principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, represented the United States in the absence of a Senate-confirmed director of the FWS.

The U.S. delegation co-sponsored five proposals, all of which were adopted. One proposal prohibits commercial exports of wild saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) or their parts, in response to an 80% decline in saiga populations in the last 30 years due in part to illegal and unsustainable tr Male saiga horns are sold for use in traditional eastern medicine.

Two other U.S.-backed proposals provide new protections for three species of sea cucumbers, which are vulnerable to over-exploitation due to their high commercial value and ease of capture, and for tokay geckos (Gekko gecko), which are subject to overharvest due to demands from the international pet and eastern medicine trades.

The pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri), which is also over exploited in the international pet trade, will receive the highest level of CITES protections — an outright ban on trade — in another proposal supported by the U.S. New protections for an entire genus of parachute, tarantula and ornamental spiders, which are popular in the pet trade, were part of another U.S.-backed proposal.

Successful proposals also include one for giraffe conservation, which will now require permits for their importation, to ensure that international trade is not detrimental to the species’ survival. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering whether to list giraffes under the Endangered Species Act. The parties also passed a ban on live elephant imports, except for emergency situations. That proposal was not supported by the U.S.

Read TWS’ standing position on Threatened and Endangered Species.

Header Image: Giraffes are one of many species discussed at the recent CITES meeting. ©John Hilliard