Five key decisions at the World Wildlife Summit
A global wildlife summit concluding on Friday passed resolutions protecting hundreds of threatened species, including sharks, reptiles, turtles and trees.
Here are some highlights from the two-week Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Panama.
1) Sharks steal the show
These ancient predators were no longer just the villains of the deep, but the stars of the summit.
Delegates from more than 180 countries agreed to regulate trade in 54 species of the requiem shark and hammerhead families.
These species are most hunted for their shark fins – considered a delicacy in some Asian countries – and their numbers have been depleted, threatening the entire marine ecosystem.
Only Japan grumbled at the resolution, arguing restrictions on the blue shark trade would deal a blow to its fishermen’s livelihoods.
CITES also voted to restrict trade in guitarfish rays and several other freshwater ray species.
2) Clear Glass Frogs
The skin of these nocturnal amphibians can be light green or so translucent that their organs are visible through their skin.
This has made them desirable pets, and intense trade has put the species in grave danger.
CITES has also included more than 160 species of glass frogs found in several rainforests in Central and South America in its Appendix II, which provides trade restrictions for threatened species.
The European Union and Canada withdrew their initial reservations about the resolution, which was adopted unanimously.
3) Weird and Wonderful Turtles
CITES approved different levels of protection for around 20 species of turtles from America and Asia.
These include the striking Matamata tortoises, with their prehistoric, beetle-like appearance, which have also become prized pets and are hunted for their meat and eggs.
They live in the Amazon and Orinoco basins, but scientists don’t know how many there are.
Freshwater turtles are among the most heavily traded species in the world.
Trade protection has also been granted to the unusual-looking North American alligator snapping turtle.
4) Crocodile bans lifted
Brazil and the Philippines will now be able to export farm-raised crocodiles after a total trade ban was lifted.
Delegates also allowed the export of the skin and meat of the broad-snouted caiman – found in the wild in the Brazilian Amazon and Pantanal, as well as in wetlands, rivers and lakes in neighboring countries.
“The population of these animals is very large. There was great reproductive success,” said researcher Miryam Venegas-Anaya, a crocodile expert at the University of Panama.
A trade restriction on the saltwater crocodile, which mainly lives on the islands of Mindanao and Palawan, has been lifted in the Philippines.
However, Thailand’s efforts to lift the ban on its Siamese crocodile have been rebuffed.
5) Ivory ban remains, no luck for hippos
Zimbabwe and its southern African neighbors have seen their elephant populations surge in recent years and have campaigned to reopen the ivory trade, which has been banned since 1989.
One-off sales were allowed in 1999 and 2008 despite stiff opposition.
However, in the rest of the continent, ivory poaching is still decimating elephant populations and the application was rejected.
Delegates also rejected a request from Botswana, Namibia and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) to allow the sale of southern white rhino horn.
Meanwhile, after a heated debate, a motion by ten West African nations to ban the hippo trade was defeated by delegates.
The illegal trade in the grumpy semi-aquatic mammal — for its meat, tusks, teeth and skull — increased after elephant ivory was banned.