Proposals to improve protection for jaguars, elephants, sharks, and other species will be on the agenda as the 13th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) begins on February 17, 2020, in Gandhinagar, India.
The ability of many migratory animals to survive across their range will be affected by decisions taken at the meeting by attending government representatives of most of the 130 member parties. The conference is scheduled to run until February 22, 2020.
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and head of IFAW’s delegation at CMS, said: “Habitat loss and other human-made threats, as well as lack of consistent national legislative protection for many species which cross national boundaries, has decimated some animal populations which are now at a tipping point for future survival. CMS offers a unique opportunity to ensure we step up to protect these animals across their range states and the place they call home. It is vital that countries seize this opportunity to safeguard some of our most vulnerable species.”
Jaguars will be prominent on the agenda at CoP13, with a proposal to list them on both appendices of CMS to increase protections across their range, which covers 19 states. Urgent action is vital with 40% of the jaguar habitat having been lost over the last 100 years. Further destruction of habitat and critical migratory corridors likely poses the greatest threat to the survival of the iconic species.
While the jaguar is classed as ‘Near Threatened’ globally, 13 range states have declared the jaguar to be ‘Endangered’, four ‘Vulnerable’, while two have already suffered local extinctions. Co-proposed by six countries in Latin America, this is the highest ever number of co-proponents for a proposal at CMS, excluding those sponsored collectively by all EU member states. This demonstrates the strength of regional support for this flagship species.
Collis added: “IFAW is strongly supportive of the proposal to list the jaguar and therefore provide vital protection for this animal which is emblematic of the problems facing many migratory species. An Appendix I and II listing will encourage greater regional cooperation, particularly for the management of transboundary populations, maintenance or creation of key migratory corridors for isolated populations and prevent further jaguar habitat loss and population declines.
“It is critical that CMS puts these safeguards in place for this species – the largest native cat in the Americas – if we are to help sustain it in both the shorter and longer-term.”
The mainland Asian elephant has been proposed for listing for the first time by host country India. Classified as ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN, Asian elephants suffer threats from habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal killing for ivory and other products or in retaliation due to human-elephant conflict, or deaths through contact with human infrastructures, such as collisions with trains.
“The inclusion of Asian elephants under CMS can be the catalyst for a regional agreement by Asian elephant range states, where CMS member and non-member states can take collective actions to protect the many populations of Asian elephant that are transboundary,” said Collis.
Also proposed for listing is the oceanic whitetip shark, once considered one of the most common tropical sharks in the world, but now one of the most endangered sharks in the ocean. Its drastic decline is due in part to overfishing, particularly for the lucrative shark fin soup trade, which has decimated populations throughout its range. With its Red List status updated last December to critically endangered, its losses average a shocking 98-100% worldwide.
Collis added: “Although it can’t be legally caught or retained by most international and regional fisheries management organizations, this species may still go extinct because of its depleted population. Its status and the threat of imminent extinction shows the urgent need for better global protection.”
Other key species which will be considered for action to protect them include the giraffe, undergoing a ‘silent extinction’ as numbers have plummeted by up to 40% over the last 30 years, as well as guitarfish and wedge fish (the most endangered group of sharks) and African carnivores, including the highly trafficked cheetah.