CITES (CoP17) begins tomorrow – but what’s it all about?

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The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa from tomorrow, 24 September.


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries. Therefore, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was created in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it renders varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants.

CITES is an international agreement to which States (countries) adhere voluntarily. States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention (‘joined’ CITES) are known as Parties. For many years CITES has been among the conservation agreements with the largest membership, with now 183 Parties.

The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need:

Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.

Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for cooperation to prevent illegal or unsustainable exploitation.

All eyes will be on the convention

CoP17 will be bringing the global wildlife community together to tackle the world’s biggest wildlife challenges and opportunities. The Johannesburg conference will sift through 62 proposals to tighten or loosen trade restrictions on some 500 species. In the current gloamy light of the rhino poaching crisis, all eyes will be on the convention to see what plans will be put in place to stem the crisis and illegal trade in both rhino horn and elephant ivory.

The Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) is listed in Appendix I across the continent.

The CITES listing for both elephants (Loxodonta africana) and white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) vary between Appendix I and Appendix II, depending on the country. In South Africa, both the white rhino and elephant are classified in Appendix II.

Watch this space for an update once the 12 day conference has come to an end.

For more information on the arguments both for and against opening the trade in rhino horn, please see the following links:

*(some content acquired directly from CITES website)

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