Born Free USA believes that every individual animal matters, but there are two species that we hold especially close to our hearts – lions and elephants. With World Lion Day and World Elephant Day coming up on August 10 and August 12, we are reminded that the plight of Elsa, the lioness, and Pole Pole, the elephant, were the inspiration for the founding of Born Free. And now, 35 years after Born Free began, we continue to work to protect these species.
In two weeks, Born Free USA will do just that on a global scale at the CITES Conference of Parties (CoP) in Geneva, Switzerland, where we will be pushing hard to ensure greater protections for lions and elephants and many other threatened species.
What is CITES?
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten species' survival. As of 2018, around 5,800 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants are regulated by CITES and listed in CITES Appendices I, II, or III. CoPs (Conferences of Parties) happen every three years and allow member States and other stakeholders to review progress in species conservation and adopt or amend proposals related to species protection.
What will Born Free do at CITES CoP18?
CoPs offer advocate organizations like Born Free the chance to push for stronger protections for imperiled species. This year, at CoP18, Born Free USA will actively work to increase international protections for African wildlife threatened by unsustainable and illegal trade, including lions and elephants.
Recommendation: Document on African Lions
This document would present a draft CITES Resolution regarding the conservation of and trade in African lions. While a number of CITES Resolutions have relevance to lions, the adoption of a dedicated Resolution specifically on African lions is needed, as populations are in serious decline across much of Africa, with only 23,000 - 39,000 mature individuals remaining in the wild occupying just 8% of the species' historic range. Trade in lion products and body parts, especially bones, is considered a major contributing factor to this population decline, with trophy hunting also identified as a potential threat. Closer monitoring and recording of international trade in lions under CITES, as well as enhanced enforcement, is therefore warranted.
Recommendation: To transfer the populations of African Elephants in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe from CITES App. II to App. I
Right now, the African elephant is listed in CITES Appendix I in some countries and Appendix II in others. This puts the species at ongoing risk, complicates enforcement, maintains market demand and commercial international trade, confuses consumers, and undermines the effectiveness of CITES regulations for African elephants. Notoriously, the illegal poaching of elephants and the trafficking of their ivory threaten the survival of the species. CITES measures proposed to strengthen trade regulations for certain African elephant populations, including limiting trade in live animals, coupled with guidelines for the management and disposal of ivory stockpiles, and for the closure of remaining legal domestic ivory markets, should improve the chances of survival for this iconic species.
I am thrilled to be part of the Born Free team attending CITES CoP18! I invite you to follow Born Free USA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, where we will document our work at CITES, announce news and victories, and post other behind-the-scenes content from the meeting (August 17 - 28).
For the Animals,
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