Governments meet in Panama to decide the fate of wildlife threatened by poaching, illegal logging, and unsustainable trade

From trees to sharks – decisions to tackle the illegal and unsustainable trade in wild animals and plants at CITES CoP19 can shape the future for several species at risk of extinction.

10 November 2022, Panama City, Panama – As global conservation policy makers meet next week in Panama City for the 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP19) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the WWF is calling on delegates to take a series of bold steps to tackle the illegal and unsustainable trade in wildlife and help reverse trends driving the loss of global biodiversity.

“With much of the world’s iconic wildlife threatened by poaching, illegal logging and unsustainable trade, the upcoming CITES conference in Panama provides an opportunity for governments to take bold decisions, not just on paper, but to ensure the trade regulations agreed at the Conference translate into tangible change for many culturally and economically important species.” said Dr. Margaret Kinnaird, WWF’s global lead for wildlife.

Over the course of the two-week summit, member states will consider more than 170 documents addressing the global trade in wildlife. This year’s meeting is a make-or-break moment for several threatened species, with proposals to review the regulations on trees, sharks and rays, tigers, marine turtles, medicinal plants, rosewoods, and other timber species. There are many new species being proposed for addition to the CITES lists governing their trade - including a number of trees, sharks, sea cucumbers and the medicinal plant, Rhodiola, or golden root. While WWF experts will be tracking each of the proposals, they will closely be following discussions around these critical issues:

· Trees - WWF will be calling for the adoption of proposals to add five groups of tree species to the list of commercially traded species that are regulated to ensure they are legally and sustainably traded (Appendix II): Ipe and Cumaru from Latin America; and Padauk, Pod Mahoganies, and African Mahoganies from Africa.

· Marine species - WWF supports the addition of many new shark and ray species to Appendix II, this includes hammerhead and requiem shark families, and the guitarfish ray family. While several species of sharks and rays are already listed, listing of entire families (hammerhead sharks, requiem sharks, and the guitarfish ray) to Appendix II will bring almost all internationally traded shark and ray species under CITES regulations, allowing for better conservation implementation and enforcement efforts. WWF also supports the call for greater commitment to reduce demand for marine turtles through stronger policies, legislation and law enforcement guided by forensic and DNA analysis. WWF also supports the addition of three sea cucumber species of the genus Thelanota to Appendix II.

· Big cats - WWF is calling for stricter actions to address the illegal trade of big cats including cheetahs and tigers. In the latter case, we urge Parties to define time-bound specific measures for countries most involved in trade, to include greater controls for tiger farms. A TRAFFIC report released earlier this month revealed that authorities worldwide have seized tigers and parts equal to an average of 150 tigers a year over almost 23 years, with seizures in the first half of this year signaling the relentless pursuit of remaining tigers. WWF also strongly supports the decisions on jaguars, calling for enhanced stakeholder engagement and collaboration among key actors involved in jaguar conservation, as well as a long-term system for monitoring illegal killing and trade of jaguars, as trade is becoming an increasing threat.

· Stronger measures to curtail illegal trade - While several species are already listed on the Appendices, WWF believes that stronger actions are needed to protect marine turtles, pangolins, rhinos, eels, and sturgeons. WWF also supports maintaining existing export bans on critical tree species, including ebonies, rosewoods, and palisanders from Madagascar.

· Mainstreaming gender and supporting equity and representation of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities - Important cross-cutting issues including the need to address gender-related matters in wildlife trade are also set to be discussed. WWF strongly supports a proposed document for the development of a Gender Plan of Action for the Convention as well as two documents looking at enhancing the participation of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in the matters related to the Convention.

“This is the first CITES CoP to be held in Latin America in 20 years and Latin American species, including jaguar, Ipé and maru trees, turtles, and sharks. will feature prominently in the discussions. It follows directly on the 27th CoP of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change and it occurs on the eve of the critical global meeting on the Convention on Biodiversity Diversity (CoP15). We have a unique opportunity, not only to halt the decline in biodiversity, but to put nature on a path to recovery for 2030, for the sake of a healthier planet. Let’s seize it.” said Dr. Colman O Criodain, global head of wildlife policy at WWF International.

Editor’s Notes:

CITES has three Appendices, listing species according to the degree of protection they need in terms of regulation of international trade. Listing on Appendix I means that all international commercial trade in wild-taken specimens of the species concerned is prohibited. Trade in species in Appendix II is regulated by a permitting system and needs evidence that the international trade is legal, sustainable, and not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. Amendment to Appendices I and II can normally be made only at CoP meetings by two-thirds majority vote. A Party can unilaterally ask for species to be listed on Appendix III at any time for their country, when they want to ensure that any trade in those species from their territory is legal.

About World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
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For more information, please contact:

Marsden Momanyi: [email protected]; Tel: +254 719784872

Monica Echeverria: [email protected]. Tel: +1 (202)378 33 96 (English and Spanish)