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18th meeting of Conference of the Parties(CoP) of CITES held in Geneva, Switzerland

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The 18th meeting of Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was held in Geneva, Switzerland from August 17 -August 28, 2019.18th meeting of Conference of the Parties(CoP) of CITES

Key points:

Members Participated:
183 CITES member nations participated in the latest meeting held in Geneva.

The meet aimed at the discussion over the future of the ivory trade, illegal killings of rhinos and the rhino horn trade, management of African elephant populations, and the booming exotic pet business.

The world’s most trafficked wild product called ‘rosewood’(a dense, tropical hardwood) is now moved to Appendix II of CITES. The wood is used to make musical instruments and handicrafts.

Amphibians and reptiles:

  • Indian star tortoise lives only in three countries of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka poached for the exotic pet industry gets Appendix I listing.
  • Caribbean little lizard called ‘the Union Island gecko’ used for commercial trade (listed under Appendix I).
  • Tokay gecko, which lives throughout Southeast Asia poached in the millions every year & used in Chinese medicine get listed in Appendix II.
  • Glass frogs, known for its unique appearance failed to get new protections.

woolly mammoth:
The proposal, put forward by Israel to list woolly mammoth(closely related to Asian elephants) under Appendix II as a regulated species has been officially withdrawn after it looked unlikely to pass. Russia is the largest exporter of mammoth ivory.

Asian small-clawed otter:

  • The Asian small-clawed otter, which has the native to South and Southeast Asia get the new protections & get listing under Appendix I.
  • It was used for poaching and faced wetland habitat loss which led to the population decline of more than 30 % during the past three decades.

Southern white rhinos:
The member nations have voted against decreasing protections for southern white rhinos but Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Namibia proposed loosening restrictions. However, this measure was defeated & white rhinos get listed under Appendix I.

Smooth-coated otter:

  • The Asian small-clawed otter and the smooth-coated otter were moved from Appendix II to Appendix I. They were highly used for international trade.
  • At present, the hairy-nosed otter is listed on Appendix II & the Eurasian otter is on Appendix I since 1977.

Mako sharks:
The shortfin & longfin mako sharks (sometimes called cheetahs of the ocean for their speed) hunted for their meat and fins (used in shark fin soup) were get the new protection

Elephant ivory trade:

  • The proposal brought forth by South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe was voted down by several southern African nations & failed to generate enough support to allow 4 nations to reopen their ivory trade practices.
  • The proposal to protect elephants by permanently eliminating all commercial international trade of the animals throughout Africa failed to pass in the meet.
  • The black market for elephant ivory and other products leads to the killing of some 30,000 elephants each year.

Saiga antelope:

  • The saiga antelope, a Central Asian animal poached for their horn & used for traditional medicine failed to move under CITES Appendix I.
  • It will still be listed under Appendix II, which allows trade with proper paperwork.

Increased protections for giraffes:

  • The member nations have agreed to protect giraffes for the 1st time, which draws the praise from conservationists. Giraffes are a vulnerable species facing habitat loss and population decline (up to 40 % during the past 3 decades).
  • Masai giraffes, the largest subspecies of giraffe has declared endangered. The subspecies in Kenya and Tanzania has declined by nearly 50 % in the last 30 years because of poaching and changes in land use.

Domestic ivory markets will remain open:

  • The proposal brought forward by a coalition of mostly African nations to call for domestic market closures had been voted down & the member nations report back about their domestic ivory market plans by next meet.
  • Japan and the EU(European Union) are the largest in the world to keep the ivory markets open.

Black rhino trophy hunting:

  • Black rhino trophy hunting in South Africa (SA) get the support by the Conference of the Parties.SA stated that the amount raised from trophy hunting program helps support conservation
  • At present quota allows for 5 adult male trophies, but the new one allows a number not exceeding half a percent of the country’s total black rhino population.
  • Black rhinos are detrimentally affected by poaching.

Export of live, wild-caught elephants:
The member nations voted to amend a resolution to limit the trade in live, wild-caught African elephants to range countries only.

About CITES:
♦ It is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. It came into force in 1975 with the goal of ensuring that international trade does not threaten the survival of wild plants and animals.
♦ It is administered through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
♦ Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.

CITES Appendix:
It classifies plants and animals according to three categories, or appendices, based on the level of threats faced by them.

  • Appendix I: It includes species threatened with extinction. CITES completely bans commercial trade in specimens of these species. But is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II: It provides a lower level of protection.
  • Appendix III: It contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.