CITES CoP17 Fails to move lions onto Appendix I

by - October 04, 2016

As I'm sure a lot of you know, the CITES CoP17 (Conference of the Parties) is currently taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa. This conference is very important for the conservation of many species, and so I'm going to try cover it as much as possible. 

Many people were fighting to move lions to Appendix I. CITES has appendices to classify the endangered state of different species of flora and fauna. The Appendix which a species falls under determines the level of protection given to it by law in terms of trade. If a species comes under Appendix I, then no international trade of that animal can take place, unless for non-commercial reasons (i.e. for scientific reasons, where both an import and export permit is needed). Animals under Appendix I are considered to be threatened with extinction. 
Lions are being threatened by trade for their bones. I wrote a post about the endangered status of lions: Endangered Species: Lions. Before I go on I'm sure you'll have noticed, I am against the trade in lion bones, but pro legalising trade in rhino horn. This is because I believe that each case must be treated differently, as they are different species. Each species must be dealt with in a way that is best suited for their conservation needs, and unfortunately there is no one solution that will help save all species. I wish there was, but there isn't and we must not assume that all trade is bad, or all trade is good. That's what conservationists are for; to determine the best possible route to help save each species. 

The movement of lions to Appendix I was intended to help bring an end to the lion bone trade. What has happened at CoP17, is that lions are remaining under Appendix II, with a "zero annual export quota for bones, bone pieces, products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth removed from the wild and traded for commercial purposes." What does this mean?
Well it all seems pretty vague is my first thought. Vagueness is a conservationists worst enemy, because it can be twisted and interpreted. Vagueness is one of the main reasons Canned Hunting exists; making a legally-undefined practice illegal is rather impossible. You may also notice that skins aren't included. 
The glimmer of light coming from this is that South Africa is allowed to set it's own export quota for the same body parts (but not skills) from their captive bred lions. Trouble is, there is no way of guaranteeing this will prevent trade in wild lions as it is difficult to tell whether you have a wild lion's bone, or captive bred lion's bone.

Appendix II supposedly still has tight controls over trade, but the species here are not moved to Appendix I unless it is deemed that the trade is detrimental to the survival of the species. To most intelligent people it is clear than lion bone trade is having a detrimental effect on the species. I think lions are definitely past the point of consideration, and should have been moved to Appendix I with little question of doubt. A quote from the EU's final document was "The population is not characterised by a marked decline in the population size in the wild on its whole range and does therefore not meet the criteria for inclusion in Appendix I." Quite frankly, that's the most ridiculous statement they could have come out with. There is countless evidence showing a decline in the population. I think they were very careful in their choice of words.. "whole range" suggests they can say that because in one area theres no decline, the whole population is fine. This is obviously not the case; that would be the same as saying just because one country has a high average life expectancy, the whole population is going to live a long time. It's completely illogical and quite frankly, it's incorrect. The "close control" promised is also somewhat questionable. These are just words, and actions speak louder than words. 

This is bad news for the lion population, of around only 20,000 in the wild. CITES was trusted with such an important decision to help lions, and they've failed. It worries me for what is to come from the rest of this conference. 

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