WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that many imperiled species have made significant gains in trade protections at the internation wildlife conference winding down Wednesday.
The United States is a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a worldwide treaty enacted in 1975. Every two to three years a Conference of Parties (CoP) is held to review changes to and implementation of wildlife trade protections agreed to by the 182 member countries and the European Union. This year, the seventeenth CoP is being held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from Sept. 24 through Oct. 5. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been designated to implement the CITES provisions and report to the CoP on U.S. efforts to curb illegal trade in at-risk species.
African grey parrots, which have been decimated in the wild due to the pet trade, now have increased global protections, the Service said. "Increased CITES protections come not a minute too soon for African grey parrots," USFWS Director Dan Ashe, head of the U.S. delegation to the treaty's 17th Conference of the Parties, said. "During the past 25 years, more than 1.5 million wild African greys have been taken from their native habitats, making them one of the most traded of all CITES-listed parrots." The U.S. contingent worked with a coalition of countries to gain support for the Appendix I listing proposal, the strongest level of protection. The proposal was adopted by a vote of 95 countries for it, 35 against, and five abstaining. Changes to Appendix I and Appendix II listings must be proposed at a CoP meeting and pass by a two-thirds majority vote. The parrot vote is expected to be finalized at the end of the conference, the agency said.
Eight species of pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are also proposed for Appendix I protections. Half the species are found in Asia and the others are found in Africa. The scales are made of keratin, which also forms fingernails and rhino horns. They are used in traditional Asian medicine, as luxury food in East Asia and as bushmeat and traditional medicine in Africa. "We reached out to our CITES counterparts in many other nations to show that the science supported an Appendix-I listing, and we have supported pangolin range states in their international collaborations to develop conservation plans, including policy actions under CITES. With widespread agreement among range states that an Appendix-I listing is warranted, we applaud the leadership of the many countries that helped us get there," Ashe said. "We are confident that the CITES Parties will uphold these recommendations."
Imperiled reptiles, including 21 species of African pygmy chameleon and freshwater turtles and tortoises, which are also heavily impacted by the pet trade, are also slated for increased protections.