CYNESA Team CoP17 CITES Johannesburg

Looking Back at CoP17-CITES

The 17th Conference of Parties to CITES in Johannesburg came to an unexpected end on 4th October 2016 after almost two weeks of long hours in deliberations by the parties and lobbying by civil society. Unexpected end because the CoP concluded its agenda one day ahead of schedule to the delight of many delegates and the secretariat who were glad that there was a consensus on most of the decisions and proposals.

COP17 CITES Johannesburg

During the CoP a number of proposals to amend the various CITES appendices were adopted. Among the most notable were the proposals to list all species of pangolins under appendix 1. What this means for the world’s most trafficked animal is that trade in live pangolins and their parts are now illegal. With strict enforcement from parties this means that this iconic species has been saved from becoming extinct due to trade. Other such proposals on the African grey parrot and Barbary macaque which are under threat due to live pet trade, habitat destruction and defragmentation were adopted. The listing these species under appendix 1 means that international commercial trade in the African grey parrot and Barbary macaque which is also used as a tourist photo prop must come to an end.

COP17 CITES JohannesburgThe African elephant split Africa into two during the meeting – the African Elephant Coalition which proposed listing of all African elephants under appendix 1 and the southern Africa elephant range states that proposed sustainable conservation of their stable elephant populations and limited trade in ivory. These divergent views played out throughout the meeting and in side events arousing a lot of interest and drama. In the end however the status quo in listing of elephants was maintained while a decision was adopted to close all domestic markets in ivory was adopted.

Other proposals adopted to list silky sharks, thresher sharks, devil rays and rosewoods under appendix II mean that trade in these species and their parts and derivatives is now restricted. There are lots of other species which you will hear less about including various species of reptiles and amphibians like the earless monitor lizard, horned viper, tomato frog, nautilids among others whose proposals for listing under either appendix I or II were adopted.

CYNESA at CoP17 Johannesburg

They remind me of Laudato Si paragraph 86 which is also part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; “God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.”

If the 17th CoP of CITES is anything to go by there is hope for the world’s endangered species and by extension for sustainable development. However this is heavily dependent on the commitment of all human beings to heal our deep seated human relationships before embarking on healing our relationship with nature. This means stemming ethical and social ills such as corruption and promoting enforcement of CITES decisions to ensure the survival of endangered species of flora and fauna.


Roselyne Thirikwa - Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA)

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Written by:

Roselyne Thirikwa,

Core Team Member, CYNESA.

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