Nairobi, Aug 29 – The 18th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) concluded in Geneva on Wednesday after adopting decisions that will boost the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife across the globe.

One of the African species to benefit from the decisions made at the conference will be the giraffe, which was added to Appendix II of the Convention, meaning that trade in giraffes and their products, such as skins, horns and bones will be regulated.

African giraffes have declined by 36-40 per cent over the past three decades due to habitat loss and other pressures.

There were several proposals with interest to East African countries, led by Kenya, particularly concerning elephants, rhinos, giraffes, pancake tortoises, teatfish and wedgefish.

With elephants, there is a major difference of opinion between Southern African states, who support trade for sustainability and West, Central and East African states along with many NGO’s who believe trade will encourage poaching.

Kenya, acting on behalf of the 32 member states of the African Elephant Coalition, which includes all the East African Community Countries except Tanzania, opposed all the southern African led elephant proposals.

A proposal regarding the elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, (which are in Appendix II so subject to trade restrictions), to extend their opportunity to trade raw ivory stocks was rejected.

The Southern African group claimed that while elephant populations in some countries were declining, theirs were growing and required considerable costs to manage and protect them. They suggested that treating all populations the same, risked preventing conservation authorities and local communities from obtaining essential revenue from ivory sales.

Continuing the trend of using CITES trade quotas and permits to promote sustainable commercial fisheries, the conference decided to add 18 more shark species to Appendix II. They included blacknose and sharpnose guitarfishes, which are highly valued for their fins and considered endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Shortfin and longfin mako sharks, together with white-spotted and other species of wedgefishes, were also listed in Appendix II.

Other marine species addressed by the conference included eels, teatfish (sea cucumber), queen conch, marine turtles, precious corals, sturgeons and seahorses.

Tropical timber trees comprise another wildlife market of high commercial value. Responding to high and increasing demand for African teak from western Africa, CITES broadened the need for trade permits to include plywood and other forms.

Malawi’s national tree, the rare Mulanje cedar, and the slow-growing mukula tree (a type of rosewood) of southern and eastern Africa, were also added to Appendix II. All Latin American species of cedar were listed in Appendix II.