Taronga Attends UN CITES Conference

Taronga Attends UN CITES Conference

Taronga played an advisory role at this year’s UN CITES (CoP18) conference, participating in debates to ensure international decision of trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife and Fauna (CITES) concluded last month in Geneva, Switzerland. Taronga CEO, Cameron Kerr and Director of Welfare, Conservation and Science, Nick Boyle attended CITES as advisors to the Australian Government delegation at the meeting.

This year, 93 new species were added to the CITES Appendices to protect wild populations and ensure that any legal trade is regulated based on the best available conservation science. Member countries also agreed to strengthen the Convention’s provisions to increase traceability and better coordination with indigenous communities so that their livelihoods are protected.

Here are some of the important decisions that will help give these species a fighting chance.

Sharks and Rays

Sharks and rays are in rapid decline around the world as they are hunted for their meat and fins for food as well as threatened by large-scale fishing operations. CITES member countries voted to add 18 species of sharks and rays to Appendix II of the Convention. This means that the trade of these 18 species will be closely monitored to ensure they do not become extinct in the wild.

The 18 species of sharks and rays include: 10 species of Wedgefish, six species of Guitarfish and two species of Mako sharks. The proposal to protect these species attracted the highest number of co-sponsorship – that is – support from member countries since 1973.


Over the last three decades, wild giraffe numbers have plummeted by 40 per cent. Some refer to this as the ‘silent extinction’ because the loss of giraffes isn’t as well publicised as the loss of elephants and rhinos. Giraffe numbers have been dropping due to a range of factors, such as habitat loss, trophy hunting, bush meat and population growth. The ongoing debate around the number of giraffe species and sub-species is also making their conservation harder.

This year, CITES voted to have giraffes listed in Appendix 2. This means that for the first time ever, giraffes have been afforded international level protection and trade in giraffe parts will now require appropriate permits.


Otter numbers in the wild have come under increasing threat in recent years from illegal poaching. Some people think that they make better, more charismatic pets than dogs and cats. The social media fuelled desire to take popular pictures is causing further demise of otters (and other animals) in the wild. This has led to ‘otter cafes’ popping up in places like Japan where guests can interact with otters and snap selfies while having coffee.

This year, CITES voted to move two species of otters, the small-clawed and smooth-clawed otter from Appendix II to Appendix I. Any species listed in Appendix I is prohibited from being commercially traded.

Elephants and Ivory

The commercial trade of ivory has always been a contentious issue in the international arena. A coalition of African countries believe that they should be allowed to sell their stock-pile of ivory to raise funds to pay for the conservation of elephants and rhinos. One the other hand, a coalition of African countries argue that allowing for the sale of ivory will fuel further poaching of elephants and rhinos. This year, CITES voted to uphold the ban in the sale of ivory.

While these tensions play out at CITES, momentum for dealing with the trade of ivory is gathering speed. One of the largest online retail platforms in Japan – Yahoo Japan – has announced that it will ban the sale of ivory by the end of November this year.

These are some of the important announcements from this year’s Conference to help manage wild populations of some of the most endangered animals around the world. CITES has also recognised the ongoing need to continually combat illegal wildlife crime, particularly as it moves into the digital space. As such, member countries have agreed to strengthen collaboration with local, regional and international law enforcement agencies as well as source, transit and destination countries to effectively deal with the illegal poaching of animals and plants. 


You never know when you may witness wildlife crime – markets and shops across South East Asia are hotspots for wildlife trade. By lending your eyes to the wild, you can report what you see and help authorities catch poachers.

Simply download the Wildlife Witness app and photograph suspicious incidents of illegal wildlife trade, including trapped or caged wildlife, animal products being sold in a market place and delicacies in restaurants that may include illegally poached wildlife.

Small-clawed Otter
Small-clawed Otter
Cameron Kerr and Nick Boyle at CITES 2019
Cameron Kerr and Nick Boyle at CITES 2019
African Elephants
African Elephants