17th Conference of the Parties to CITES

The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) took place in Johannesburg, South Africa from 24 September to 5 October 2016 at the Sandton Convention Center.

This conference concluded with actions that are expected to go a long way in ensuring protection for some of the most vulnerable plants and animals on the planet.

Decisions Taken:

The decisions adopted by the COP, shorthand for “Conference of Parties” to the Convention, the primary governing body of CITES, will firmly embed wildlife in the agendas of global enforcement, development and financing agencies that have the capacity and technical expertise to help ensure implementation of the Convention on the front lines.

The  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.

Parties also recognized several conservation success stories, including that of the Cape mountain zebra, several species of crocodiles and the wood bison, which were all by consensus down-listed from Appendix I under CITES to Appendix II in recognition of their improved conservation status.

A number of new animals and plants were also added to the CITES Appendices for the first time, affecting a large number of mammals, marine and timber species, as well as many reptiles and amphibians.

Similarly, there was a fresh push to further safeguard threatened species and added protection was accorded for the African grey parrot, Barbary Macaque, Blaine’s fishhook cactus, elephant, pangolin and saiga antelope.

Also, measures were agreed to combat illegal trade for specific species, including included the African grey parrot, African lion, cheetah, helmeted hornbill, pangolin, rhino and totoaba, the largest member of the drum family of fishes.

CITES is now seen as an indispensable tool for achieving the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For instance, Goal 14 and Goal 15 include specific references on protection of flora, fauna and ecosystems.

About Conference:

The COP, held every three years, is the primary governing body of the Convention. This year’s conference was attended by more than 3,500 people, including 2,500 officials from the 152 national governments.

The conference also decided that the 18th COP will be held in Sri Lanka in 2019.

With 183 Parties, CITES is one of the world’s most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation. It regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment.