A few years ago, not one person outside the scientific/conservation/natural world had ever heard of the pangolin up until its triumph at The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna Seventeenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CITES CoP17) recently held in South Africa. All the 8 species were granted the highest level of protection against trade (Appendix 1), where Kenya and Nigeria with the support of the US submitted a proposal to protect the species and all of a sudden the pangolin gained global recognition, fame and awe.
CoP17 was a success for not only lesser known species such as the pangolin, the African Grey Parrot, Helmeted Hornbill, totoaba, psychedelic rock gecko, Titiaca water frog and the Tomato frog but also for iconic species such as the elephant, lion, tiger, cheetah and rhino. Tree species such as 350 species of rosewood, the African cherry and agarwood were also recognized and brought under CITES trade control. More on the success stories here.
Pangolins have been the most trafficked animals on earth as a result of illegal trade of its scales as well as skin and meat in South Asia, with estimates accounting for up to 20% of the entire wildlife black market. The illegal wildlife trade is the second greatest threat to conservation efforts worldwide which is valued between $10 and $23 billion annually being suppressed only by drugs, arms and human trafficking. Mid of this year, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) seized 500kgs of pangolin scales at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi, Kenya. This indicates the rate at which this species is being driven to extinction.
What to expect after the success of CoP17
Action from government and stakeholders worldwide to adhere to the set guidelines which will be reflected in the legislation, regulation and operating practices especially for the world’s most vulnerable species.
How, when and where wildlife products are bought and sold will be affected.
The CITES strategic vision 2020 was also amended to make specific mentions to align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Time will tell whether the success at CoP17 will be met as we move swiftly to the implementation phases till CoP18 to be held in Sri Lanka in 2019.
Protection of endangered species is paramount when it comes to preserving our natural heritage. – Erik Solheim (Executive Director UNEP)