CITES : 11 ups and one down

23 Nov 2022

Press release CITES CoP19 n°5

Diplomatic tensions

By taking a close look at all the proposals for Appendix I or Appendix II listings, the Chinese delegation found 15 “inaccuracies” with regard to the qualifications of Hong Kong, Macao and especially Taiwan. “Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. The “one China” principle is one of the fundamental norms governing international relations. Any act that creates “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” violates international law.” The Chinese delegation was specifically targeting the USA proposal to downgrade the black-footed albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) from Appendix I to Appendix II. China also challenged the “japanisation” of the Senkaku Islands following the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed on April 17, 1895 between the Empire of Japan and Qing Dynasty. According to China, the Senkaku Islands are called the Diaoyu Islands (“fishing islands”). The People’s Republic of China claims sovereignty over the archipelago. The Japanese delegation immediately protested against the Chinese delegation’s statement.
Senegal, Guinea, Gabon, Mali, Niger, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Congo, Central African Republic, Gambia, Burundi, Benin, Togo, Kenya and Guinea-Bissau collectively intervened against the proposal by the European Union and Viet Nam to list the Asian water dragon (Physignathus cocincinus) in Appendix II. The block of West and Central African countries were in fact protesting against the EU’s torpedoing of the proposals to list hippos and all African elephants in Appendix I. The EU took it very badly and has since been trying to put out the fire. The African countries’ outcry did not prevent, as planned, the species from being included in Appendix II (81 in favour, 27 against and 20 abstentions). Asian water dragons are semi-aquatic and arboreal lizards. They are associated with rocky streams in the remaining evergreen forests of Thailand, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China. Asian water dragons have been coveted “objects” in the international pet trade for decades.

Glass frogs (Centrolenidae)

Cochranella granulosa © Shanelle Wikramanayake

Arboreal, nocturnal, measuring 2 to 5 cm long, glass frogs live in the rainforests of Central and South America up to 3,500 m high. They communicate with short, shrill calls adapted to the intense environmental noise of waterfalls. They control populations of mosquitoes that are vectors of malaria, Zika virus and dengue fever.
Glass frogs are threatened with extinction by the exponential demand of the international pet trade. Their large eyes and transparent belly skin make them a prime target for wildlife markets in the United States, Canada, Japan and the European Union, led by Germany, a pioneer country in reptile and amphibian extinction with its Hamm Reptile Show, the Netherlands, France and Spain. Nicknamed “Kermit the Frog” by extinction marketing experts, their smuggling has surged. German and Russian smugglers were recently arrested in Costa Rica with dozens of glass frogs in their luggage. Mortality during transport is high. The unstoppable Covid-19 pandemic has led to a reduction in anti-trafficking operations in most range countries. The Appendix II listing will improve the traceability of the trade and strengthen the penalties against collectors and smugglers.
See also “Panama, the great sellout of wild animals and plants”, press release of November 14, 2022.
Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, the Dominican Republic, the United States of America, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Niger and Togo proposed the inclusion in Appendix II of the entire family Centrolenidae, which comprises 158 species, including 2 species discovered in 2022.
The European Union had already thwarted this proposal in 2019 in Geneva. It tried again in Panama. Driven by the aquarium lobby, it was the only one, along with Canada, to express firmly its opposition. Until the last moment, the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union remained inflexible despite the priority proclaimed in its press release of November 16, 2022 “to strengthen the protection of species with markets in the European Union”. On the other hand, 28 Latin American, Caribbean, African and Asian countries (including Indonesia) stood together in support of glass frogs during the night session. The European Union, realising that the game was lost, decided not to ask for a vote. The proposal was accepted by consensus.

Turtles are the ancestral, countless, silent and worldwide victims of the great international pet bazaar. Turtles do not cry, turtles do not defend themselves except for snapping turtles, turtles do not flee. They are picked up like stones or large pebbles in swamps and rivers. They are handled, shipped and sometimes abandoned by the millions every year. Invasive species like the red-eared slider compete with native species.
“On the Trail”, the quarterly information and analysis report on endangered animals poaching and smuggling edited by Robin des Bois (Robin Hood), mentions in each issue trafficking by truck, train, plane, parcel post, seizures in markets and reptile fairs. The red-crowned roofed turtle gang is active in India and is spreading to Southeastern Asia.
Indian star tortoises were listed in Appendix I in 2019 at the 18th CITES plenary meeting in Geneva. Red- crowned roofed turtles (Batagur kachuga) and Indochinese box turtles (Cuora galbinifrons) accede to it at the 19th CITES plenary meeting in Panama. The map turtles (Graptemys barbouriG. ernstiG. gibbonsiG. pearlensis and G. pulchra), the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii), the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), the Amazon matamata turtle (Chelus fimbriata) and the Orinoco matamata turtle (C. orinocensis) were added to Appendix II. On the pet market, red-crowned roofed turtles sell for 2,000 € per individual in Singapore or Thailand, and matamata turtles for 800 € per individual in Europe and the USA.

Straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus)

© CheongWeei Gan

Malaysia, Singapore and the USA proposed a transfer from Appendix II to Appendix I. Only Indonesia claimed that Appendix II was sufficient to fight trafficking. It was seeking more to protect bird breeders than birds. It asked for at least a 24-month implementation delay. It obtained a 12-month delay and the proposal was accepted by consensus.
See “Panama, the great sellout of wild animals and plants”, press release of November 14, 2022.

White-rumped shama (Kittacincla malabarica)
“The listing of this species in Appendix II is urgent”, said Malaysia. Its joint proposal with Singapore was accepted by consensus. Indonesia suggested an 18-month implementation delay. This option, which would have encouraged a rush of traffickers and traders, did not receive any support and Indonesia did not insist. See “Panama, the great sellout of wild animals and plants”, press release of November 14, 2022.

Pygmy bluetongue lizard (Tiliqua adelaidensis)
Australia’s proposal to list this species in Appendix I was accepted by consensus. Specimens sell for up to 10,000 € in Europe, including the United Kingdom and Germany. In March 2021, South Australian State authorities found that burrows of pygmy bluetongue lizards had been excavated and degraded in order to capture live specimens or collect eggs. Their range, less than 500 km2, is increasingly fragmented and encroached, including by wind farms.

Good news for rhinos
The proposal by Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) to resume trade in rhino horns from its territory was rejected by 85 votes against (including Viet Nam), 15 in favour (including China) and 26 abstentions. Robin des Bois notes that China, despite having shutting down its domestic rhino horn market, voted in favour of the proposal. It adopted the same paradoxical position on elephant ivory. See “The ups and downs of CITES”, press release of November 21, 2022. This is probably an effort by Chinese diplomacy to gain the favours of the governments of southern Africa and Zimbabwe.
King Mswati III International Airport is an exit for rhino horns illegally imported from South Africa and other southern African countries. An attempt to smuggle rhino horns from Eswatini to Taiwan was thwarted in May 2020 (see “On the Trail” n°16 p.70). While Senegal, speaking in French, was firmly opposing this proposal, the English translation made it say the opposite. It was alerted in time by the other West African delegations.

Bad news for rhinos
The proposal by Botswana and Namibia was to downgrade the southern white rhino from Appendix I to Appendix II for the Namibian population only and to allow international trade in hunting trophies and live animals for in-situ conservation purposes only. The white rhino population in Namibia is estimated at 1,237 individuals. 57 white rhino poaching acts were officially acknowledged in Namibia between 2013 and 2020 and 12 in 2021. Between January and August 2022, 48 rhinos were poached in Namibia, 32 black and 16 white. Poaching of both black and white rhinos is increasing despite preventive dehorning campaigns. Between April 2021 and March 2022, 59 horns were seized. They originate from both black and white rhinos.
The proposal was accepted by 83 votes in favour, 31 against and 13 abstentions with an EU amendment restricting the downgrading to “live animals, for in-situ conservation purposes only, within the natural and historical range of the species in Africa”. As a reminder, the initial proposal also concerned the export of hunting trophies.
It is therefore not a reopening of international trade in horn, but this downgrading from Appendix I to Appendix II will nevertheless be perceived by the smuggling channels as a decrease in the protection of the species, not only in Namibia but also in Botswana, where poaching is rampant. The approval of this proposal will facilitate the relocation of rhinos from one country to another over long distances. These transfers require the anaesthetisation of each individual and cause mortality.


All other Robin des Bois’ press releases on this CITES in Panama:

“An arrk and 9 tuned notes”, (CITES CoP19 n°5), November 25, 2022
“CITES : 11 ups and one down” (CITES CoP19 n°5), November 23, 2022
The ups and downs of CITES” (CITES CoP19 n°4), November 21, 2022
Good news for macaques” (CoP19 n°3), November 18, 2022
Good day for trees“, (CITES CoP19 n°2), November 18, 2022
Panama, the great sellout of wild animals and plants” (CITES CoP19 n°1), November 14, 2022




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