World Wildlife Conference starts paying tribute to Sri Lankan victims of terror

by Published on SundayTimes on 25.08.2019

The 18th World Wildlife Conference convened by the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora (CITES) is being held in Geneva, from August 17-28. Delegates from 183 countries along with other participants observed a minute’s silence, before starting proceedings, to pay tribute to victims of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday terrorist attack, the Sunday Times learns.

Known as 18th Conference of Parties (COP18) of CITES, this international conference was originally intended to be held in Sri Lanka last May. But the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks forced the event to be postponed and subsequently, shifted to CITES’ headquarters in Geneva.

Delegates paying one-minue tribute for Easter Sunday victims at Geneva (c) IISD reporting services

Sri Lanka’s delegation included officers of the Department of Wildlife (DWC) which is the responsible local agency to handle CITES matters.

CITES meets once in 3 years to discuss ways to regulate the trade in international wildlife, that is worth billions of dollars annually. This trade could also impact the biodiversity, as species traded as exotic pets, timber and other flora are often subject to over-exploitation. The meeting focuses on what species should be protected from the wildlife trade and to what level.

About 5,800 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants currently receive various levels of protection from CITES. There are 3 Appendices under CITES where animals or plants can be listed according to the threatened levels. Trade in species listed under Appendix I, is prohibited, while species in Appendix II can be traded with a licence, ensuring it is obtained legally and, if harvested, it won’t hurt the species’ chances of survival.

Conference delegates will submit proposals for changes to these lists, subject to the species’ threat levels, due to the trade. There can also be requests to lessen the threat levels. These requests have been approved through a ballot. Proposals such as the sale of stockpiles of African ivory, attracted heated voting, said Dr. Sevvaandi Jayakody, currently attending the conference. “One of the notable proposals approved at the conference so far, includes listing of Giraffe under CITES Appendix II,” she said.

Sri Lanka too proposed enlisting 4 of the country’s endemic agamid lizards to be included in Appendix I, banning their trade. Sri Lanka is also co-proponents of listing Star Tortoises and Tiger Spiders (Tarantulas) and several Shark species in CITES Appendix II.

Dr. Sevvandi said that Sri Lanka received unprecedented support at the meeting, with every party conveying their concerns, before taking the floor.

Delegates from Sri Lanka (c) IISD reporting services

Sri Lanka’s Hump-nosed Lizard on cover of one of the CITES report (c) IISD reporting services

18th World Wildlife Conference on progress at Geneva, Switzerland 17-28th of August (c) Photo credit IISD reporting services

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