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Species360 at CITES CoP19: Raising Awareness for Species from Songbirds to Sharks and Rays

The CITES CoP19 Parties voted to include all species of requiem sharks and hammerhead sharks in CITES Appendix II.

More than 2,000 participants representing signatory countries, non-governmental organizations, industries and other observers, gathered in November for the 19th meeting of the Conference to the Parties (CoP19) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The CoP, nicknamed the World Wildlife Conference, brings together governments (Parties) to review and make decisions on regulating trade in endangered species. 

Their goal: to consider changes to regulations that ensure sustainable international trade of species, as well as to ensure the CITES Convention is being implemented and enforced. 

Their results: 46 newly adopted proposals will regulate the trade of four bird species, 100 shark and ray species, 50 turtle and tortoise species, 160 amphibians, and 150 tree species.

The role of aquariums and zoos in supporting CITES with knowledge on animals and their environments:

Species360’s mission is to facilitate international collaboration in collecting and sharing knowledge on animals, and their environments — which is why attending forums such as CITES is so important.

Species360’s delegation attended the CoP to represent Species360 members and to highlight research from the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance (CSA). In addition, together with partners, we hosted two side events where we presented information documents under the Species Knowledge Initiative (SKI). The SKI, led by the CSA, brings together multiple data sources to help fill data gaps and prioritize species for further research to determine how international trade impacts their population numbers.

CITES CoP19 Committee I meeting room. Image credit: Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

Below are examples of SKIs presented at CoP19 and their importance to the conservation community. We thank our aquarium, zoo, wildlife refuge, and other members for the impact that they provide through this important work.

Sharks, Rays and Ornamental Fish

The Shark Species Knowledge Initiative (SKI) maps data on 1,171 extant species of sharks and batoids (Elasmobranchii) across six knowledge areas using information from open-data repositories, while the Ornamental (Aquarium) Fish SKI maps data on 15,964 extant species of marine bony fishes (Actinopterygii and Sarcopterygii). The main aim of these reports is to identify species for which research on the impact of international trade is urgent, with the objective of supporting CITES decision-making.

At the CoP, Species360 partnered with the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to draw attention to the role of aquariums and zoos in changing what is known about these species. During a side event hosted by WAZA and Species360, an expert panel provided an update on progress on the SKIs on Ornamental Fish, Sharks and Rays, and discussed its impact on CITES decision-making. 

The panel consisted of the following speakers:

  • Prof. Andy Rhyne, Roger Williams University
  • Dr. Kim Friedman, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • Dominic Whitmee, Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA Ltd) 
  • Robert Likins, Pet Advocacy Network
  • Dr. Sandy Trautwein, Species360
Sharks, rays and ornamental fish side event panelists and moderator, Dalia Conde.

The SKIs on ornamental fish, sharks and rays are being finalized and will be published soon.

Silent Forest: The Songbird Trade

Species360, together with multiple partners, including the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and BirdLife International, among many more, also co-hosted The Silent Forest: Songbird Trade side event to discuss songbird conservation and trade. The event was moderated by Species360’s Prof. Dalia Conde and EAZA’s Danny de Man and aimed to inject fresh energy into the topic of songbird conservation, as actions promised for songbirds at the previous CoP failed to gain momentum. 

Speakers presented current songbird trade research from the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance and BirdLife International – mentioned in CoP19 Doc. 74 – that can be used to support the CITES decision-making process. 

Over the past two years, Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, in collaboration with partners, conducted a study, as outlined in AC31 Doc. 30 of CoP18, which resulted in the development of the Songbird Species Knowledge Initiative (SKI) information document, which presents a unique insight into the scope of the global songbird trade. 

Songbirds were the first taxon to be mapped using the SKI methodology, with the aim of identifying and ranking species in terms of their prevalence in international wildlife trade, and to direct where further research and conservation action should be taken to conserve these species. 

Thank you to our partners and sponsors of the songbird side event:

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), BirdLife International, Kölner Zoo, Copenhagen Zoo, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), EAZA Silent Forest Group, IUCN SSC Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group (ASTSG), Lincoln Park Zoo, Mandai Nature, Vogelpark Marlow, Monitor Conservation Research Society, Provita ONG, TRAFFIC, Wildlife Conservation Network (WCS), World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

What’s Next:

CoP19 was a resounding success, and we look forward to continuing and expanding the work of the CSA in utilizing data to support CITES decision-making.  We also look forward to representing our members at the next CITES CoP and CITES Animal Standing Committee Meeting.

Further Reading:

We were pleased to see a strong presence from the zoo and aquarium community at the CITES CoP. If you would like to read more about the CoP by attendees from the community, take a look at these posts:

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