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Safari Club Prepares for CITES 19th Conference of the Parties

The CITES CoP19 will take place this November in Panama City, Panama. SCI and SCIF are busy preparing for our engagement, which includes reviewing and forming sustainable use positions on 52 proposals on nearly 600 species. 

What is CITES?

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is a multi-lateral environmental agreement that regulates international trade in wildlife, including hunting trophies.  CITES has 184 Parties, consisting of 183 countries and the European Union.  The treaty came into effect in 1973 and is somewhat different from many other treaties between sovereign nations because non-government organizations (NGOs) concerned with one or more species of flora and fauna or involved in wildlife conservation may participate at the various CITES meetings as observers.  Only Parties can vote and make decisions, but non-state actors such as NGOs can influence the process.  Every 3 years, the Parties meet at a Conference of the Parties (CoP), CITES’ main governing body.  Between CoPs, CITES has three permanent Committees—Animals, Plants, and Standing—that each meet several times during each cycle.  At each CoP, the Parties decide whether to list (or downlist) species that have met certain biological criteria which indicate that continued, unregulated international trade in the species might threaten its conservation status (listing on Appendix II) or endanger it (listing on Appendix I).  The CoP also represents the culmination of work done by the CITES Secretariat and Committees since the previous CoP—work that typically addresses interpretation of Convention text, reviews of listed species, and other issues regarding administration and implementation of the treaty.  

Although international export and import of hunting trophies from listed species is generally not prohibited because they are not traded for primarily commercial purposes—rather, trophies are for personal use—tourist hunting and trade in trophies are regularly the most controversial and emotive topics of discussion at CITES meetings.  Elephant, rhino, lion, and other iconic African species eat up by far more meeting time and Party resources than any other species.  SCI and SCIF’s long history of involvement in CITES has helped ensure CITES allows the sustainable use trade of charismatic megafauna and many other species.    

SCI and SCIF’s History with CITES

As far as NGOs go, perhaps none have as extensive a history with CITES as SCI and SCIF.  In 1976, SCI President Andy Oldfield attended the very first CoP as part of the United States’ delegation. In the nearly 50 years since, SCI and SCIF have collectively attended nearly every CoP and scores of Committee meetings.  Few organizations—and fewer pro-sustainable use organizations—can boast of CITES experience comparable to SCI and SCIF’s.  Although the staff for each organization has changed many times over the years, SCI and SCIF are routinely regarded as leaders for the hunting community and in issues related to trade in hunting trophies, including iconic species like African lions, leopards, elephants, rhino, and Asian wild sheep and goats, among other agenda items. 

Both SCI and SCIF staff and board members attend each CoP, Animals Committee, and Standing Committee meetings.  Representatives of both organizations participate in discussions of relevant issues, make interventions on the floor, collaborate with like-minded stakeholders, and try to influence the outcome of debates to protect and advance the interests of SCI members and the hunting community – that being the conservation and livelihood benefits derived from the sustainable use and trade of wildlife resources.  SCI and SCIF coordinate well with other pro-hunting and pro-use groups: European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE), International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC), Nordic Hunters’ Alliance, and many others, including organizations that represent aquariums, circuses, and the pet trade. Staff most recently attended the 74th meeting of the Standing Committee, a key input to the upcoming CoP19. Staff Jeremy Clare, SCI Litigation Counsel and CITES Manager, and Joe Goergen, SCIF Conservation Manager, will lead our delegations in Panama. 

Issues For Consideration at CoP19

For two weeks in November, the 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP19) will be held in Panama City, Panama.  Parties and Observers, like SCI and SCIF, will meet to discuss, among many other documents, species listing proposals and decide whether to adopt or reject each. Of the numerous species proposals in the CoP’s overly protectionist agenda, only 9 are for less restrictive trade regulations.  For each CoP, SCI and SCIF create a voting guide; read CoP18’s guide here.  For CoP19, proposals of particular interest to SCI and SCIF are:

  1. Transfer Hippopotamus from Appendix II to Appendix I.
  2. Transfer Appendix II Elephants to Appendix I. 
  3. Transfer Namibia’s population of Southern White Rhino from Appendix I to Appendix II with an annotation that would limit trade to hunting trophies and live specimens.
  4. Amend the annotation for Appendix II listed Elephants that would allow for commercial trade of ivory. 
  5. Remove annotation for Eswatini’s population of Southern White Rhino, which is on Appendix II. 
  6. Transfer the Aleutian Cackling Goose from Appendix I to Appendix II.

The hippo proposal will likely be very contentious.  Leading up to CoP19, SCI and SCIF are working with their partners to lobby the Parties to reject the proposal.  The proposals regarding elephant have been proposed at previous CoPs and were rejected then.  The same is true for the rhino proposals.  SCI and SCIF will nevertheless urge the Parties to adopt the proposal to transfer Namibia’s southern white rhino population from Appendix I to Appendix II.  The proposal to transfer Aleutian cackling goose, a hunted species, from Appendix I to Appendix II should pass without objection. We remain active in other important CITES agenda items including the African Carnivore Initiative, quotas for African leopard hunting trophies, and lion. Most importantly, we strongly encourage the inclusion of participatory mechanisms for indigenous peoples and local communities in the CITES process. 

Shared Mission with SCIF’s African Wildlife Consultative Forum

The African Wildlife Consultative Forum (AWCF) is SCIF’s flagship activity in Africa. This year we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary and preparing for the CITES CoP19 with our African partners and attendees to the forum. 

Regional CITES strategy and the inclusion of rural indigenous communities was the genesis of AWCF two decades ago, integrating Safari Club’s mission and leadership in international sustainable use policy. One of our most significant accomplishments at CITES was the adoption of a definition of “hunting trophy” as separate non-commercial source of trade; this was workshopped through AWCF gatherings and supported by participating Parties. SCIF also hosted a pre-CITES meeting in Maputo, Mozambique in 2016 before the CoP17 in South Africa. 

At the 20th AWCF this October in the same location of Maputo, Mozambique, CITES will again be the top priority. CITES authorities of national wildlife management agencies from the Southern African Development Community will attend to strategize. SCI and SCIF will also have the opportunity to showcase our sustainable use voting guide, an extensive review of the many CoP19 agenda items with our recommended positions.  

AWCF is a critical step in Africa’s engagement on CITES as a region and with sustainable use observers. AWCF provides an open venue, led by African governments, but equally involving the private hunting industry, community-based organizations, and other NGO observers, to discuss Africa’s priorities at CITES. 

SCI and SCI Foundation look forward to the important work ahead at both AWCF and the CoP19 as we stand both First for Hunters and First for Wildlife. 

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