Animals Without Borders: The United Nations' Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

By : Humane Society International February 18, 2020

Conservationists and governments from around the world are due to gather at a major wildlife conference in Gujarat, India to agree on vital protections for migratory species such as elephants, jaguars, albatross and sharks whose survival depends on trans-national co-operation and action. This will take place 15-22 February 2020.

This meeting of the 130 nations that are parties to The United Nations' Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) is an important opportunity for policy makers from across the globe to collaborate in order to ensure that protections are in place for species whose range extends across countries.   

With estimates of up to one million species at risk of extinction, nations have a shared responsibility to act on behalf of chimpanzees, giraffes, whales, sharks and more. Experts will also discuss the hugely important issue of animal culture and how this needs to be taken into account when constructing wildlife conservation strategies for species that have complex social structures.

Some of the key proposals for this meeting are:

  1. Proposals to list a number of shark species on CMS Appendix II (smooth hammerhead, oceanic white tip and school shark);
  2. A proposal to place the Asian elephant on Appendix 1 of the convention (giving it the highest level of protection);
  3. A proposal to place the jaguar on Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 of the convention (Appendix 2 means that a formal regional agreement should be concluded);
  4. A proposal to put urgent conservation action in place for a West African population of chimpanzees which are defined by their culture (a ground breaking development in conservation terms);
  5. An associated proposal for further work on the conservation of cultural units of animals;
  6. Proposals for the protection of a number of bird species, including Indian bustards and the Antipodean albatross; and
  7. A proposal for action for the critically endangered and genetically distinct Baltic harbour porpoise.

Of particular concern to Australia, a number of important shark proposals with worldwide distributions are on the table:

School Shark – known as tope throughout the rest of the world, this species is frequently caught and sold as "flake.”  An IUCN listing of Vulnerable has resulted from comprehensive population decline across its wide distribution, including the population that migrates between Australia and New Zealand.

Smooth Hammerhead – another globally distributed species IUCN listed as Vulnerable, the smooth hammerhead is also threatened by commercial fishing with declines of up to 75% in some parts of its range including Western Australia.

Oceanic Whitetip – recently recategorized as Critically Endangered, the nomad that is the oceanic whitetip has seen calamitous declines throughout its range due to commercial fishing.

Antipodean Albatross - a frequently caught species in the Southern Ocean jurisdictions of Australia and New Zealand has been proposed after bycatch from commercial fishing has driven populations to all-time lows.

Humane Society International is asking the Australian Government to give full support for CMS protection for these imperilled migratory species.  

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About HSI Australia

HSI concentrates on the preservation of endangered animals and ecosystems and works to ensure quality of life for all animals, both domestic and wild. HSI is the largest animal protection not-for-profit organisation in the world and has been established in Australia since 1994