The 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) took place in Johannesburg between 24 September and 5 October 2016. CITES is a vital international mechanism for protecting some of our most precious yet vulnerable global wildlife.
Having attended the conference, I can report it was a great success, delivering strong agreements to protect some of the world’s most iconic species. I am pleased that much of this action was driven by the UK.
For example, the UK led negotiations on African lions which saw the trade in wild lion bones banned and the establishment of a new CITES taskforce.
We also chaired discussions on rhinos, resulting in investigative action into failures to halt rhino horn trafficking in key destinations. A proposal to allow trade in rhino horn was also rejected.
Perhaps most significantly, and in recognition of the peril facing many elephant populations, the conference voted against a resumption of trading in modern day ivory, in line with recent domestic UK action. There was also a clear direction to close national ivory markets where these fuel poaching and illegal trade and decisive action to strengthen national ivory action plans which help combat ivory trafficking in key markets.
In addition, global rules on hunting trophies were enhanced, with export permits now mandated for almost all species listed as endangered.
The many victories for global wildlife are too numerous to detail, with action also delivered for pangolins, as the world’s most trafficked mammal, the African Grey Parrot and species of sharks amongt others.
Vitally, while CITES deals with the legal trade in species, illegal wildlife trade was also a strong focus, with agreements reached on increased global co-operation, and intelligence sharing to boost efforts to reduce demand for wildlife products and tackle corruption. This agreement is crucial as we look towards the Hanoi conference on the illegal wildlife trade which will bring together global leaders in November to push further action. Following on from the ground-breaking London Conference, the UK is providing funding and advice to Vietnam in hosting this latest conference, assuring the illegal wildlife trade’s place at the top of the global political agenda and delivering on our manifesto pledge to continue to lead the world on this issue. The Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom will lead HMG’s delegation to the conference, which will also be attended by HRH the Duke of Cambridge. Their presence at this vital time will show that the UK continues to be at the forefront of global action, pushing for an end to this brutal trade.
UK leadership in this area is clear. At home, we are tackling wildlife crime through our National Wildlife Crime Unit, which will receive £1.2 million of funding over the next four years. Abroad, the British military is delivering anti-poaching training to rangers in Gabon, home of Africa’s largest population of forest elephants. We are also investing £13 million in projects around the world to support communities and boost law enforcement through our illegal wildlife trade challenge fund, including specialised interception tracking courses to protect rhino and elephant populations across sub-Saharan Africa.
Decisions made in recent weeks will have a real impact in safeguarding some of the world’s most vulnerable species. The UK has been at the forefront of driving this and we will remain committed to protecting global wildlife for generations to come.