In July this year, the 25th meeting of the CITES Animals Committee was held in Geneva. More of this meeting in a moment….
CITES is an international agreement between Governments, the aim of which is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.
The main Conference of Parties (CoP) is held every three years but between these meetings, the Animals Committee meets to review new issues .
Up until this point, lions have not been well served by CITES.
Lions are facing catastrophic decline in the wild and yet the last time they were on the CoP agenda was back in 2004 when Kenya requested an upgrade to Appendix 1. This would have classified lions as endangered and would have severely restricted international trade. This request was voted down in favour of regional meetings where individual range states were to agree lion conservation needs. Since 2004, lion populations have continued to decline steadily whilst the international trade in lion trophies has continued unabated. Lion conservation needs have not so far been served.
CITES votes are all too often influenced by powerful lobbying groups, and pro sport hunting groups not only boast about keeping lions off the CITES agenda but now one of these groups, Safari Club International has pledged financial support for cash strapped CITES.
…At the Animals Committee finally, a recommendation was put forward for a Periodic Review of the African lion, as a high prority. This is the first ray of hope for the African lion since 2004.
Depending on the outcome of this review, the lion could remain on Appendix II ( Vulnerable) or it could be uplifted to Appendix I (Endangered), thus severely curtailing the trade in lion trophies. You can be very certain that the pro sport hunting groups will be lobbying very hard to resist an uplift of the lion.
LionAid accepts that a Periodic Review is at best a stopgap measure, as it requests exporting countries to review the status of their lion populations. This is pretty much the same measure accepted in 2004, and pro-hunting organizations launched their well-funded campaigns to “overcount” lions wherever possible. One comical result was that lions were supposed to occur, according to those results, in 94% of Tanzania, basically under every tree. This information will be presented, straight faced, as part of the Periodic Review process. CITES needs to get much stricter in terms of their standards for accepting such “reports”, and we can only trust they will.
IF EVER THERE WAS A TIME TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT OF THE LION, IT IS NOW!!
We will work with the UK and EU Governments during this review process to push for an upgrade to Appendix I.
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