More than 120 documents will be considered during the conference. Among these documents, 60 are proposals to amend the lists of species subject to Cites trade controls.
The conference will also deliberate on the role of Cites in securing the livelihoods of people living alongside wildlife and ensuring that communities are considered in terms of the interventions implemented in terms of the convention. Other issues to be discussed include the legal and sustainable wildlife trade, measures to tackle illicit wildlife trafficking, and enhanced enforcement.
Controversial and thought-provoking topics, such as interventions to address the poaching of elephants, the proposed listing of elephants, lions, rosewood species and sharks, and the illegal trade in rhino horn and pangolin, are areas that will probably receive the most international attention.
African countries, through their participation in the conference, have the potential to influence negotiations. South Africa will support proposals and working documents that promote sustainable use of natural resources, provided they have a scientific basis and are aimed at securing the long-term conservation of the species.
Cites Cop17 affords South Africa an opportunity to showcase our rich biodiversity and successful conservation initiatives, based on sustainable management practices. This has resulted in us becoming one of the leading conservation countries in the world today, having saved species such as the black rhino, white rhino and elephant from near extinction in the past century.
Our commitment to conservation includes the sustainable use of natural resources, which makes an important contribution to the socio-economic development of our poor and rural communities. These are priorities outlined in our country’s National Development Plan (NDP).
In a world of 7 billion people how can we protect wildlife?
South Africa’s natural assets are critical contributors to our economy, food security and job creation. In this regard, game farming, the hunting industry, eco-tourism and bio-prospecting play a significant role.
It is important to outline what the South African constitution says about environmental protection. It underscores the need for balancing economic and other development goals with environmental sustainability. It further affirms the right to an environment that is protected for the benefit of present and future generations – through reasonable legislative and other measures.
These measures should, among other things, promote conservation and secure the ecologically sustainable development and use of our natural resources, while at the same time promoting justifiable economic and social development.
It is an unfortunate reality that for centuries, natural resource protection came at a great cost to black South Africans. Not only were indigenous communities forced off their ancestral land in order for protected areas to be established, but our people were also denied meaningful participation in the natural resource economy. This is a legacy the South African government, led by the African National Congress (ANC), has been working to redress.
National Biodiversity Economy Strategy
We now have a National Biodiversity Economy Strategy that promotes community-based and community-owned initiatives that will support both conservation and socio-economic development.
There is also our successful People and Parks programme, born out of the need to support the conservation of biodiversity in protected areas, while promoting socioeconomic development in affected communities.
Through this programme, we are actively restoring and maintaining natural ecosystems to stimulate rural economies, upgrading and developing new infrastructure in protected areas to boost tourism, developing commercial assets for communities living around protected areas, and supporting related industries.
South Africa’s wildlife – especially the iconic “big five” – is our greatest treasure. It is our rich biodiversity that attracts thousands of tourists to our shores.
Saving Africa's elephants isn't just a 'white man's job'
Prehistoric rock art in the Drakensberg region of South Africa – dating back more than fifty thousand years – is evidence of the deep and fundamental connections between our history as a people, and the wildlife alongside which we continue to co-exist .
For the next two weeks, the world’s attention will be focused on Cites Cop17 as delegates discuss how best to conserve species under threat from the grim illicit wildlife trade. Species conservation is the duty and responsibility of all: it is inextricably tied to our history, our society and our culture. Let us make sure we will reach the right decisions.
5 Most Endangered Animals
Scientific Name: Addax nasomaculatus.
Status: Critically Endangered.
Threats: Uncontrolled hunting and harassment. Also drought and the extension of pastoralism.
Population: Less than 300 animals surviving in the wild.
Countries: Chad, Mauritania, Niger.
Also known as the white antelope and the screwhorn antelope, the addax lives in the Sahara desert.
2. Ethiopian Wolf
Scientific Name: Canis simensis.
Threats: Loss of habitat (agriculture), disease epizootics and hybridization with domestic dogs.
Population: 400-550 individuals.
Countries: Endemic to the Ethiopian highlands.
A canid native to the Ethiopian Highlands. It is similar to the coyote in size and build, and is distinguished by its long and narrow skull, and its red and white fur.
3. Mountain Gorilla
Scientific Name: Gorilla beringei.
Threats: Habitat loss, poaching, pet trade and illegal hunting (bushmeat).
Population: Closest estimate is 680 mountain gorillas.
Countries: The Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.
The Mountain Gorilla is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla. There are only two populations left on Earth.
4. Pygmy Hippopotamus
Scientific Name: Choeropsis liberiensis.
Threats: Deforestation for farming and logging + bushmeat hunting.
Population: The latest estimate (1993 survey) is pretty much outdated (2000-3000 pygmy hippos). Since the population trend is on a decrease, fewer than 2000 individuals is probably more accurate (although this stat is clearly approximate).
Countries: Endemic to West Africa; Sierra Leone, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, and Liberia.
Reclusive and nocturnal, the pygmy hippo is semi-aquatic and relies on proximity to water to keep its skin moisturised and its body temperature cool.
5. African Wild Dog
Scientific Name: Lycaon pictus.
Threats: Conflict with human activities and infectious disease (e.g. rabies).
Countries: Native to Botswana; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Ethiopia; Kenya; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; Senegal; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania; Zambia; Zimbabwe.
The African wild dog is a highly social animal, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females. Uniquely among social carnivores, it is the females rather than the males that scatter from the natal pack once sexually mature, and the young are allowed to feed first on carcasses.
Can hunting endangered animals save the species?
Some exotic animal species that are endangered in Africa are thriving on ranches in Texas, where a limited number are hunted for a high price. Ranchers say they need the income to care for the rest of the herd. Animal rights activists want the hunting to end.
The scimitar horned oryx . . . the addax . . . the dama gazelle - three elegant desert antelope that you'd hope to see on a journey through Africa, except that their numbers are dwindling there. Which is why Lara Logan went to Texas -- yes, Texas. There, on large grassland ranches, some exotic species that are endangered in the wild have been brought back in large numbers. But there's a catch: a percentage of the herd is hunted every year by hunters who pay big money for a big catch. The ranchers say this limited "culling" gives them the money they need to care for the animals and conserve the species. But animal rights activists don't buy that argument, claiming the hunts are "canned" and that hunting is wholly inconsistent with conservancy.