JOHANNESBURG – The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) two-week summit has closed with Secretary-General John E. Scanlon describing the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties as “a game changer”.

Scalon said the triennial summit, which closed on yesterday, “will be remembered as a point in history when the tide turned in favour of ensuring the survival of our most vulnerable wildlife”.

It was the largest ever meeting of its kind with 152 governments taking decisions on 62 species-listing proposals submitted by 64 countries.

The Johannesburg conference was marked by agreement on measures to improve sustainable trade in a number of species, including the queen conch, humphead wrasse, sharks, snakes and African wild dog as well as a large range of timber species, such as bubinga and rosewoods, and the African cherry and agarwood.

                                                                                               Agarwood bark. Source: Pinterest/Gaharu Utara

There was fresh impetus to further safeguard threatened wild animals and plants with added protection for the African grey parrot, Barbary Macaque, Blaine’s fishhook cactus, elephant, pangolin and saiga antelope; and well-targeted enforcement measures agreed to combat illegal trade for specific species.

Multiple new animals and plants were also added to CITES Appendices for the first time and hence will come under CITES trade controls.

“CITES is now seen as an indispensable tool for achieving the Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals,” observed Scanlon who also thanked South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, for hosting the Ministerial meeting on the topic of CITES and the Sustainable Development Goals.

CoP17 saw a number of firsts, including, the first ever:

• Resolution on corruption and wildlife crime;

• Decisions on cybercrime and wildlife crime;

• Resolution on strategies to reduce the demand for illegally traded wildlife,

• Resolutions affecting the helmeted hornbill and snakes;

• Decisions on targeting the illegal fishing of and trade in totoaba, and the related illegal killing of the vaquita;

• Resolution and decisions on youth engagement in CITES; and

• Decisions on rural communities engagement, providing a greater voice for local people in managing wildlife.

The conference in Johannesburg was also the first meeting that the European Union participated and voted, as a Party to the Convention.

– African News Agency

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