7 Things to Know about Singapore and CITES CoP17

In Wildlife
© WWF-Singapore

As you read this now, the world’s largest wildlife trade conference, CITES CoP17, is happening! This is crucial because the protection statuses of and trade regulations for many endangered wildlife species are going to be decided at this conference. For example, just today, the proposal to grant highest protection for Asian pangolin species was ACCEPTED!
UPDATE: 
By the end of the day on September 28, countries accepted that all 8 species of pangolins (4 Asian, 4 African) should be granted highest protection!

So what does this all mean? We have simplified all the relevant information for you and hope this quick read below will help you understand why this is significant for all of us and inspire you to get involved in conservation efforts with us!

WHAT IS THE CITES?

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments, which sets regulations on how wildlife and plant species are traded between borders.
What CITES does is to categorise different species under different appendices based on how endangered they are and how much trade, if at all, is allowed. More about CITES is at the bottom of the page here.

WHAT IS THE CITES CoP17?

The 17th Conference of Parties (CoP) is a global meeting of national bodies that implement CITES as well as conservation organisations who have gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, to debate changes to the levels of protection afforded to over 60 categories of animals and plants. They will also tackle other critical issues such as corruption, demand reduction and combating wildlife crime. It’s taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa from 24 September to 5 October 2016.

WHAT DOES SINGAPORE HAVE TO DO WITH THIS?

Singapore plays a critical role in the CoP. As a major transit hub for many species and products traded internationally, Singapore’s efficiency is exploited by criminal organisations to smuggle endangered wildlife species to fuel the growing appetite for such products in the region. For example, from 2013 to 2015, Singapore reported five ivory seizures, accounting for more than seven tonnes of illegal ivory, confirming it as a key transit hub for the illegal ivory trade.

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Ivory seized in Singapore

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE CoP17 THIS WEEK THAT’S RELEVANT TO SINGAPORE?

Singapore was named as a “country of primary concern” in the latest ETIS report – the CITES recording system that tracks information on global ivory seizures. “Countries of primary concern” are those that play a major role in the illegal ivory trade. According to the report, this was due to the number of seizures that Singapore had been implicated in, as well as the large amounts of ivory involved, suggesting that Singapore could have been used as a transit hub for large scale criminal operations trading in illegal ivory. This now means Singapore could be asked to submit a National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) outlining what they would do to combat illegal ivory trade and report back on the same.

This issue was debated earlier this week at the CoP, with Singapore expressing their disappointment at the findings of the report, stressing that they had not participated in the investigations and could not accept these findings. In response, Tom Milliken, elephant and rhino expert with TRAFFIC, reiterated the methodology of the findings and that the countries mentioned had not reported seizure data on time.

ARE ANY OF THE SPECIES DISCUSSED AT THE CoP RELEVANT TO SINGAPORE?

CoP17 will see a debate over some of our most iconic species, in particular elephants, rhinos, tigers, pangolins, sharks and devil rays. Of particular relevance to Singapore are the agenda items on species such as pangolins, african grey parrots, sharks, devil rays, and helmeted hornbills, which pass through Singapore borders legally as well as illegally. In some great news, the proposal to uplist Asian species of pangolins was accepted! 

Many of them like the pangolins and certain sharks and rays are critically endangered and just a step away from extinction. Pangolins are the most trafficked animals in the world with a healthy population found in Singapore. The country is also one of the biggest trader of sharks in the world. We are possibly having a negative impact on the numbers of these highly endangered species!

Pangolins are solitary, nocturnal creatures that have become victims of the illegal wildlife trade for their meat and scales

WHAT CAN SINGAPORE DO?

More than a meeting, CoP17 is an opportunity to influence and ensure the protection statuses of many endangered species that are increasingly threatened by trade.

It is imperative that Singapore strengthen measures for enforcement and deterrence so it is no longer used as a transit point for illegal wildlife trade for any species. While Singapore has been making strong symbolic gestures like the June 2016 ivory crush, this should be supplemented by stepping up efforts to intercept shipments and prosecute those involved in smuggling ivory and other illegal wildlife products. This is definitely possible for a country like Singapore that has historically shown determination and efficacy in solving other critical issues.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO KNOW MORE?

Keep following our Facebook page for more information on updates from the conference. You can go one step further and join us in our conservation efforts for endangered species and in the fight against illegal wildlife trade by subscribing to our updates here: http://bit.ly/StayUpdatedB.

More about the CITES.

Appendix I lists animals threatened with extinction and allows trade only in exceptional circumstances. This includes animals like tigers and Asian elephants.

Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled so that the species don’t become endangered. Species like the pangolin, African grey parrot and great white shark currently fall under this.

Appendix III lists species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade of the species for its protection. Species like two-toed sloth by Costa Rica fall under this.

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