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17th Meeting of CITES - 2016      


CITES COP 17 - 2016 


CITES CoP 17 begins on the 24th September, running until 5th October. Representatives from HSI will be attending, and daily updates and news will be posted here.

For further information on HSI' s work on CITES - Click here, and visit our Blog for more updates.

More information including factsheets on each of the proposals under consideration can be viewed at http://www.ssn.org/

Tuesday 4th October – Species proposals confirmed and final day comes early!

Today CITES Parties reconvened in plenary where most importantly all the proposals and working documents discussed and voted on in the Committees are confirmed.  The Chair made swift progress and flew through the agenda, resulting in the meeting finishing a full day ahead of schedule.

All of the proposals were confirmed with no changes made in plenary.  Overall it was an very successful meeting for animal proposals, and we have prepared the list below of what HSI considers both the wins and losses out of this conference for conservation.  For a full report and round up of the meeting see our blog on CITES CoP17 at [link to Jess’s blog here]


  • Western tur
  • Rhinos
  • Pangolins
  • Barbary macaque
  • Peregrine falcon
  • African grey parrot
  • Nile crocodile
  • Arboreal alligator lizards
  • African pygmy chameleons
  • Psychedelic rock gecko
  • Turquoise dwarf gecko
  • Masobe gecko
  • Earless monitor lizard
  • Crocodile lizard
  • Ashe’s bush viper
  • Kenyan horned viper
  • Nubian flapshell turtle
  • Senegal flapshell turtle
  • Zambezi flapshell turtle
  • Aubry’s softshell turtle
  • Nile softshell turtle
  • Euphrates softshell turtle
  • False tomato frog
  • Antsouhy tomato frog
  • Three burrowing frogs
  • Titicaca water frog
  • Hong Kong warty newt
  • Silky shark
  • Thresher shark
  • Devil ray
  • Clarion angelfish
  • Nautilids
  • Cuban land snails



  • Wood bison
  • African lion
  • Florida panther
  • Eastern cougar
  • Cape mountain zebra
  • African elephant
  • American crocodile
  • Morelet’s crocodile
  • Salt-water crocodile
  • Tomato frog
  • Ocellate river stingray
  • Banggai cardinalfish


HSI delegates at CITES CoP17

Sunday 2nd and Monday 3rd October - Final two days of Committee

The final two days of committee meetings at CITES and the majority of species proposals were heard.

On Sunday, Australia's downlisting of the helmeted honeyeater to Appendix II was passed by consensus, due to the adequate protection of the species within Australia and a lack of demand for the species in trade.

Next up for consideration for the birds was the African grey parrot. The grey parrot is one of the most heavily traded of all CITES listed birds and has had heavy declines in population. Found in 21 States in Africa, HSI was delighted that the proposal to transfer the species to Appendix I was passed by parties. An Appendix I listing will stop international trade, and hopefully allow populations to recover.

CITES CoP17 plenary convenes in Johannesburg

Also on Sunday, the proposals to list the African Pygmy chameleon on Appendix II. The Pygmy chameleon is a charismatic species, and the only chameleon not listed on CITES! It is heavily traded by the pet trade which is having a detrimental impact on wild populations. HSI hopes the decision to list the species on Appendix II will help curb this trade.

Finally, the African lion proposal which had been put to a working group earlier in the week was heard again in committee. The group had made amendments to the proposal, and the final amended proposal to list all lions on Appendix II with a zero export quote for wild lions was passed by consensus, which also offers a ban on trade in lion bone. Unfortunately, amendments of the proposal included the allowance of trade in skins for captive bred lions and this occurs in South Africa. This was a disappointing outcome for HSI who had hoped that the proposal to transfer all African populations from Appendix II to Appendix I would succeed.

Monday was a huge day for HSI issues. We heard the proposals for elephants, rhinos and the marine species. In the morning elephants was heard. Two proposals which would have opened up ivory trade for Namibia and Zimbabwe were widely opposed. Poaching continues to threaten wild African elephant populations and allowing ivory trade in these countries would seriously undermine elephant conservation. Legal trade is often a cover for illegal trade and elephants in Africa are in severe crisis. HSI were thrilled that these proposals were strongly rejected by parties including Australia who spoke out in the meeting. Unfortunately the third elephant proposal which would have listed all populations of African elephant in Appendix I, halting any trade in the species was opposed. We were greatly impressed by Australia and New Zealand who supported the up-listing of elephants, which is in alignment with Australia's stricter domestic measures for Ivory.

After elephants, Swaziland's proposal to amend the annotation to the Appendix II listing of their southern white rhino population which would permit trade in white rhino horn was considered and rejected. 100 parties, including Australia, opposed the downlisting which would have increased the risk of illegal rhino horn trade. This was an important win for rhino conservation.

HSI delegates at CITES CoP17 

Up next came the marine species!

After some debate HSI was thrilled when thresher sharks, silky sharks, and mobula rays were all included in Appendix II. Japan and Iceland were the main opponents to these listings, suggesting (once again) that CITES should not deal with marine species, something that HSI strongly opposes. HSI would like to congratulate Australia on their strong support of these listings with Australia intervening in support of silky sharks. All proposals went to a secret ballot with the request from Japan, and all were supported by over 100 parties

Finally late on Monday evening came discussion of the proposal to list nautilus, the unique marine creatures on Appendix II. HSI was thrilled when the proposal was adopted by consensus

With the work of the committees now complete CITES Parties will convene for the plenary session over the next two days. This is when all proposal results will be finalised. HSI will continue to urge parties for their support, until all these species have the increased protections they deserve.

Thursday 27th and Saturday 30th – Peregrine falcons and Nautilids

On Thursday, Committee 1 continued to hear proposals on plant species.

HSI prepared for other species proposals that will come up later in the convention. The Banggai cardinalfish for Appendix II has been proposed by Europe and HSI is hoping parties will support. The cardinalfish is a small ornamental marine fish, that is endemic to Indonesia. More than 500,000 individuals are taken from the wild each year and traded for aquariums, and there are only around 1.4 million left of this species. The fish is easy to capture in nets, as it is highly localised.

A lack of regulation has resulted in the introduction of the species to sites in other areas of Indonesia and this is a concern as they are highly detrimental to these ecosystems, and compete with other fish species.

In the afternoon, proposal 17 for the peregrine falcon was heard in committee 1. HSI has been lobbying to keep this important bird on Appendix I, after Canada proposed the downlisting to Appendix II. There were many arguments on both sides of the proposal. Israel, the European Union and Iran all had serious concerns that illegal trade is sill and issue in some countries who do not have adequate management procedures in place. The proposal therefore went to a vote and thankfully, Canada did not get he two thirds of parties to support the downlisting. It is highly likely however that this will be heard again in plenary on Tuesday and Wednesday and we will keep urging countries to make sure they vote to keep the peregrine falcon under highest protection.

In the evening, HSI with the USA and other NGOs hosted an event to highlight the importance of listing nautilids on Appendix II.  Nautilids are a unique marine species which are easily over exploited. Nautilids live on steep reef slopes at a depth of 200-700m. They have late maturity and lay very few eggs, which hatch and live their whole life in the same habitat. Trade is demand driven.  There is no potential for distribution or dispersal for the species, so once a local population is fished out, there is no chance of recovery. Currently, even with low fishing pressure, most populations will depleted in 10-20 years, which is why an Appendix II listing is so important.

On the night we heard from Fiji, a co-proponent, who are home to the emperor nautilus. Like other nautilids these species have low abundance and limited migration. Fiji are highly supportive of a CITES listing and do not fish this species for food.

We also heard from expert Andrew Dunstan. Andrew is a nautilus researcher on the Great Barrier Reef where there are likely only a few thousand nautilids known on researched atolls.

Over the weekend HSI continued to work on our strategies for upcoming big proposals, including sharks, rays, reptiles and amphibians. These proposals will be heard on Sunday and Monday and we will keep you updated on the results! We are cautiously anticipating that most parties will vote for greater protection of these species.

Jess Morris from HSI Australia at CITES CoP17 

Wednesday 28th - great news for pangolins

Today was an impressive day for conservation efforts with all species of pangolins, both Asian and African Species voted by consensus on to Appendix I of the cites convention. This means there will be a full trade ban on all 8 of the species, something which is vital in protecting pangolins, the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world. Final approval for Appendix I will come next week in the plenary but HSI is highly optimistic.

HSI along with other NGOs as part of SSN have been working extremely hard to ensure these unique species obtain the protection they so desperately need. Check out HSI's Twitter for the live tweets from the meeting including lots of pictures.

Among other good news from yesterday, the western tur was listed on Appendix II of the convention. HSI made an intervention in favour of the listing, citing important data which shows the extent that the species is involved in commercial trade and trophy hunting. Russia, a range state of western tur, was opposed to the Appendix II listing but did not block the consensus of the parties. Again, confirmation will come during plenary next week.

Adam Peyman and Rebecca Regnery from HSI’s Washington office at the HSI / SSN pangolin booth at CITES CoP17

Unfortunately, it wasn't good news for all the species proposals. The wood bison which is found in the USA and Canada was downlisted from Appendix II, with the proponent country Canada citing that trade is not an issue for this species, and that recovery of the species had been observed.

The cape mountain zebra, and the eastern cougar were also downlisted from Appendix I to Appendix II. HSI was strongly opposed to this result due to the concerns that opening up trade will have for these species. Unfortunately both decisions were unanimous by all parties. However Latin American countries, including Costa Rica noted their opposition as they are a range state for lookalike species of Cougar on Appendix I and are worried about this opening up  illegal trade of the species.

More to come from Jo'burg, with sharks, elephant, nautilus and rhinos all to be heard in the next few days.

Tuesday 27th - Whales and hunting trophies

Today important proposals for HSI were considered in both committee 1 and committee 2. First, in committee 2 we heard CoP17 Document 21. HSI had concerns about this document due to the annotation to delete recommendations for the periodic review of great whales.

HSI were delighted that the majority of parties were in favour of retaining these annotations, as they are especially important in reviewing populations status of cetaceans. Australia, India, and Latin American countries made interventions to support the keeping of this amendment, and in the end there was no objection to retaining from Norway, Japan, and Iceland.

Next, in Committee 1, documents on trophy hunting was discussed. The EU and South Africa were proponents on two opposing documents for trophy hunting and met together before committee 1 to reach a compromise on their resolutions. During the Committee there were a number of interventions by delegates on both sides including HSI. HSI reiterated the importance of using the best available science for the control of hunting trophies, and explained the impacts that hunting is having on important mammal species such as leopards.

Finally, the chair proposed a drafting group to resolve the resolutions for the new information document 68. Representatives from HSI were chosen for the drafting group.

Tomorrow, species proposals begin and HSI is hopeful for positive results for pangolins, rhinos and lions which will be heard tomorrow in Committee 1.

HSI one of the expert panellists at CITES CoP17 discussing captive animals

Monday 26th September – Side events and elephants

Today most of the CITES CoP 17 side events began. The third day of the conference and committee deliberations focussed on a range of species including elephants, sharks, rays and sea turtles.

During today's Committee break, Sri Lankan Department of wildlife conservation held an event focusing on shark and rays and the impacts currently affecting populations.

Thresher sharks have a seen population loss from 77% to up to 99% in some areas. Sri Lanka reiterated that currently regional fishery management operations (RFMOs) are insufficient and that after recommendations on conservation on threshers occurred in 2010, population loss continued to increase. Slovakia provided a historical extent of decline for this species, with population projections indicating that threshers do meet listing criteria for appendix II, and in ten years likely will meet appendix 1.

Pacific Islands discussing sharks and rays at a recent side event

‚ÄčThe Maldives presented on silky sharks, and explained that Maldivian waters have been a shark sanctuary since 2010.

Fiji spoke about devil rays of which they are main proponent for listing at CITES. Devil rays hold a significant cultural and spiritual attachment for Fijians, and they were also successful in the listing of mobula rays on both CMS appendices in 2014.

India, Senegal, Dominican Republic, United States and Germany all expressed their support for these proposals at the event. 

Tonight, HSI attended another event promoting the protection for Asian elephants. IUCN elephant specialist groups held events tackling the illegal trade in these species and their parts.

The report on Asian elephants was possible through contacting range states and getting population numbers from governments.

Sadly, what the study shows is that 6 out of 13 range states have less than 500 elephants. There have been severe increases in poaching over the last 5 years, and since 2014 a new market has arisen for jewellery and beads made out of elephant skin.

The key drivers for decreases in elephant numbers is the increase in commercial tourism demand, transnational movement of elephants and a lack of adequate laws and no enforcement priority. A lot of local wild populations are already facing extinction.  We hope that the CITES document 57.1 will be adopted by parties as it will help to address these issues.

Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September – CITES talks finally begin

The much awaited CITES CoP 17 has now begun with the opening ceremony celebrations signalling the beginning of procedures here in Jo'burg.

Discussions on species proposals will start on Wednesday and in the meantime plenary occurred on Saturday where working documents and rules of procedure were discussed.

On Sunday, Committees 1 and 2 were formed. Committee 1 will discuss species proposals such as silky and thresher sharks, nautilus and pangolins. Committee 2 is tasked with assessing working documents. These include issues on hunting trophies, ivory and rhino horn – all issues that are being closely followed by the HSI team.

HSI, as part of the SSN, has begun discussions with parties to support those proposals which will increase protection and help to limit illegal and unsustainable trade and we are hoping come Wednesday that we will be successful and this will be reflected in the discussions on the floor. 

More to come from Jo'burg. Check out our Twitter for more photos and updates. 

     Species Survival Network members convene in Johannesburg for CITES CoP17











Friday 23rd September: Cop 17 is set to begin tomorrow, and in the lead up HSI has been preparing with the Species Survival Network to ensure that parties know which species are in need of their support.

Yesterday the SSN group met to talk CITES hot issues. Among the NGOs present were HSI, Defenders of Wildlife and Born Free Foundation, with this years SSN group the largest ever for any CITES CoP. Discussion among the network included on the important rhino, elephant, pangolin and big cat proposals coming up in the coming weeks. Also of grave concern for the SSN is trade in the helmeted hornbill. Exploited for its highly prized hornbill, known as "red ivory", hornbill populations have diminished to critically endangered status. CITES will hopefully enable the highest legal protection for hornbills and increase enforcement in stopping domestic sale and acquisition of the species.

Today marked the 67th Standing committee which provides policy guidance to the CITES secretariat concerning implementation of the Convention.

Among the agenda today Laos committed to close tiger farms and facilities which keep and breed tigers. Such a commitment is something that will be a huge success for tiger populations which are suffering world wide as a result of illegal trafficking.

The Secretariat also urged the Standing Committee to suspend commercial trade for all parties which are yet to take action on legislation and enact effective measures to control trade within their countries.

Finally today we heard the comments on the working documents for rhinos. Rhinos are one of the most important species being discussed at this years CoP and conflicting proposals for its protection from trade could result in Zimbabwe being allowed access to commercial exports of specimens of the species, predominantly rhino horn. Support for this proposal could further result in impacted populations, which are already suffering severe depletion. HSI will be urging all parties to oppose this proposal.

More to come from the opening ceremony Saturday morning in Johannesburg.

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