Pangolins thrown a lifeline at global wildlife summit with total trade ban

World’s most illegally trafficked mammal wins total ban on international trade in all species under the strictest Cites protection possible
Damian Carrington The Guardian 28 Sep 16;

Pangolins, the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal, were thrown a lifeline at a global wildlife summit on Wednesday with a total trade ban in all species.

More than a million wild pangolins have been killed in the last decade, to feed the huge and rising appetite in China and Vietnam for its meat and its scales, a supposed medicine. The unique scaly anteaters are fast heading for extinction in Asia and poachers are now plundering Africa.

But the 182 nations of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) unanimously agreed a total ban on international trade on all species at the summit in Johannesburg, prompting cheers and applause from delegates.

Cites works to crack down on wildlife trafficking, currently a $20bn-a-year criminal enterprise, and to ensure the legal trade in food, skins, pets and traditional remedies does not threaten the survival of species. The summit also boosted protection for the barbary ape on Wednesday, Europe’s only wild primate, and a spectacular-horned mountain goat.

The four Asian species of pangolin – Indian, Philippine, Sunda and Chinese - have been decimated by illegal poaching. The animals breed slowly and are easy to catch – they simply roll up when threatened. “It is an effective strategy against a hungry lion, but a disadvantage when approached by a human collector,” said Nigeria’s delegate, who added that the price of pangolin scales has risen tenfold in last five years.

The rampant scale of the black market has been revealed by frequent huge seizures: Indonesian authorities confiscated and burned thousands of frozen pangolins in 2015, while a Chinese ship which ran aground in the Philippines in 2013 was carrying 10 tonnes of pangolin. But traffickers have increasingly targeted the four African species: giant, South African, long-tailed and white-bellied. In June, more than 11 tonnes of pangolin scales were seized in Hong Kong in just two shipments from Africa.

Vietnam’s delegate said the upgrading of pangolins to Cites appendix 1 on Wednesday – the strictest protection possible – was critical for the survival of the Sunda and Chinese pangolins in particular, which are critically endangered. The move will pressure affected nations into tougher law enforcement and higher penalties for criminals.

Indonesia was the only nation to oppose the new protection for Sunda and Chinese pangolins, while China abstained, noting that pangolins are also caught for bushmeat in many countries and that habitat loss is also a factor. Laos supported the Asian pangolin proposals, but the Guardian revealed on Tuesday how senior Laos officials have cut deals with wildlife traffickers.

“This is a huge win and rare piece of good news for some of the world’s most trafficked and endangered animals,” said Ginette Hemley, head of the WWF delegation to Cites. “This eliminates any question about legality of trade, making it harder for criminals to traffic them and increasing the consequences for those who do.” She said efforts to reduce the demand in China and Vietnam were vital too.

“This decision will help give pangolins a fighting chance,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “The world is standing up for the little guy with this pivotal decision. These species need extra protection and now they will get it.”

Like pangolins, the protection for the endangered barbary ape – the only wild primate in Europe – was increased to the highest level. The population of the ape, found in Gibraltar, Morocco and Algeria, has at least halved in the last 30 years, to as few as 6,500.

Many barbary apes, mostly infants, are illegally captured each year, largely for the European exotic pet trade and to be used as props for tourist photos. Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, MEP and head of the European parliament delegation to Cites, said: “This is a key next step in protecting a species for which the EU is unfortunately a key destination market.”

Some of the Cites decisions on Wednesday removed existing protection from species where conservation efforts have been successful. South Africa won unanimous support for the removal of the strictest protection from the Cape mountain Zebra. Its population is now growing at 9% a year, with 4,800 living in the country.

The protection for the endangered barbary ape - the only wild primate in Europe - was increased to the highest level.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest
The protection for the endangered barbary ape - the only wild primate in Europe - was increased to the highest level. Photograph: Bruno D'Amicis/NPL/Alamy Stock Photo
“It is one of the success stories of large mammals in South Africa” said South Africa’s environment minister, Edna Molewa. “It is no longer at risk of extinction.” The looser protection will allow more trophy hunting, which South Africa says provides incentives for conservation efforts on private land.

The wood bison, one of the two subspecies of American bison, was completely removed from the Cites protective list on Wednesday, as its population has grown to 9,000 and is not threatened by poaching. There are about 500,000 American bison in total, far fewer than the 20 million or more that once roamed the continent.

Also on Wednesday, Georgia and the EU gained some protection for the western tur, a mountain goat with spectacular horns found only in the Caucasus mountains. The population of the goat, hunted as trophies, has fallen from 12,000 to 4,000 in Georgia in the last 30 years. Russia, which hosts 20,000 of the goats, had opposed the proposal, arguing the goat was already well protected and that trophy hunting encouraged gave conservation and helped prevent poaching.

No comments:

Post a Comment