Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

CITES CoP17 - 2016

Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA have issued a stark warning to Governments around the world: there can be no trade in some of our most critically endangered wildlife – ahead of the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which takes place from 24th September to 5th October in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Decisions taken at CITES will prove critical for key species including lions, tigers, rhinos, elephants, cheetah, pangolins and various birds, reptiles and plant species, which are rapidly facing decline from an epidemic of poaching that has decimated the world’s savannahs and forests. International wildlife trafficking and trade is recognised to be worth billions of dollars and is a driving force behind wildlife poaching and population declines.

Will Travers OBE, President and Chief Executive Officer of Born Free Foundation and President of the Species Survival Network, will be calling for the uplisting of lions to Appendix I, amongst other measures. He said: “The dramatic decline in numbers means that in the next decade many countries will have lost their entire population of lions and those that do survive the next 10 years will be lost soon after. These are some of the stark truths that are facing many species as a result of poaching and illegal trade. Elephants, rhinos, tigers, pangolins and giraffe are rapidly heading in the same direction.” 

In the face of this growing wildlife crisis, an international delegation of scientists and experts from Born Free will join representatives from 182 countries and other wildlife NGOs to discuss 62 crucial proposals that will set the future for many embattled species across the world. These proposals include many supported by Born Free, such as transferring threatened species such as the African lion, all elephant populations currently on Appendix II, and all eight species of pangolin onto Appendix I - thereby banning international commercial trade and giving each species the greatest protection possible.

Adam M. Roberts, Chief Executive Officer of Born Free USA, said: “This meeting is a clarion call to save the world’s iconic wildlife. Armed militia and sophisticated organised crime networks are operating in the field and slaughtering the world’s wildlife for profit. Traffickers and other profiteers are watching closely to see if trade in elephant ivory or rhino horn, for instance, are reopened. Any signal from CITES that there is profitability in this deadly trade will result in animal carcasses unceremoniously littering the African savannah and forests. CITES Parties must act with precaution and prohibit international wildlife trade.”

Born Free has been represented at every Conference of the Parties (CoP) since 1989 and will this year be represented by:

Born Free Foundation:

  • Will Travers OBE: President and CEO, and President of the Species Survival Network - focusing on elephants
  • Mark Jones: Associate Director (Multilateral Environmental Agreements & UK Wildlife), focusing on rhino, lions, trophy hunting, animals in captivity, live transportation and welfare
  • Gabriel Fava: Associate Director (Asia), focusing on pangolins, tigers, Asian elephants and wildlife crime
  • Ian Redmond OBE: Wildlife Consultant, focusing on gorillas

Born Free USA:

  • Adam M. Roberts: Chief Executive Officer, focusing on cheetah, lions, and pangolins
  • Alice Stroud: Africa Policy and Capacity Building Director, focusing on lions and sharks
  • Marion Crepet, Africa Policy and Capacity Building Consultant, focusing on lions and pangolins 

Born Free Foundation - Kenya:

  • Tim Oloo: Country Manager, focusing on African elephants

Born Free Foundation - Sri Lanka:

  • Manori Gunawardena: Country Representative, focusing on Asian elephants.

Born Free will be providing key updates throughout CITES CoP17 via press releases, on our website, on Twitter using the hashtag #BFFCITES, Facebook, and video blogs on YouTube.

CITES aims to ensure that international trade in a species of animal or plant does not threaten their survival. It is an international treaty between governments and is legally binding. Every three years, the Member Countries (or Parties) of CITES meet to review the impact of international trade on various species at the CoP, making changes to their protection and to how the Convention operates.

*Will Travers OBE will be hosting a Press Briefing organised by the Species Survival Network on Friday 23rd September between 10.30am and 11.30am at the Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg, to discuss the key issues and proposals on the agenda at CITES CoP17. Adam M. Roberts and Mark Jones, as well as other leading conservationists, will be speaking at the Press Briefing.*

You can help fight the trade in endangered species here.


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African Elephants

Africa’s elephants are being devastated by ivory poachers. Latest estimates suggest there may be less than 420,000 left across the continent. We cannot trade our way out of this problem, and concerted action is desperately needed to curb the slaughter. Born Free is supporting the African Elephant Coalition’s efforts to transfer all populations to CITES Appendix I at CoP17, close all domestic ivory markets, and close the door on any discussions about future trade.

Asian Elephants

With an estimated population approximately a 10th of their African cousins, the all but forgotten Asian elephant is acutely beset by habitat loss and degradation, and conflict with expanding human populations. Recognising the seriousness of additional pressure from cross-border illegal trade in juvenile elephants, being absorbed into captive populations to supply the tourism industry, some key measures will be debated at CoP17 to address this issue.


It is estimated that 300 live cheetah cubs are being illegally shipped out of Africa each year. Yet this fragile and rare species - already under dire threat from habitat loss - merits serious and immediate attention. Today less than 10,000 remain in the wild. Many of the trafficked cheetah are destined for the Middle East, where they are valued for the status they convey, as pets. A recent meeting bringing together range countries and other stakeholders produced recommendations which are being put forward at CoP to tackle this insidious trade.


Lion populations across Africa have reduced from around 450,000 just 75 years ago, to as few as 20,000 today. Lions now occupy only 8% of their historic range, and without international action populations are predicted to continue plummeting in the years to come. International trade in lion bones and poorly regulated trophy hunting pose significant threats to the future of lions, alongside loss of habitat and prey, as well as conflict with people. Born Free is supporting the proposal from nine African lion range States to transfer all African lions to CITES Appendix I at CoP17.


Pangolins are said to be the most heavily trafficked mammals. More than one million of these shy, nocturnal ant- and termite-eating scaly mammals are thought to have been illegally captured, killed and traded for their meat and scales over the past decade. All eight species (four African, four Asian) are threatened by the trade. Born Free is supporting the proposals to transfer all species of pangolin to CITES Appendix I at CoP17.


Less than 30,000 rhinos remain across Africa and Asia. Of the five surviving species, three (African black, Javan and Sumatran) are ‘critically endangered’, Indian one-horned rhinos are ‘vulnerable’, and African southern whites are ‘near-threatened’. Over the past decade more than 6,000 rhinos have been killed by poachers to supply rhino horn into illegal but lucrative Asian markets. This trade must stop. Born Free is opposed to the legalisation of international trade in rhino horn, and is supporting efforts to improve legislation, enforcement and demand reduction efforts to save rhinos from extinction.


Fewer than 4,000 wild tigers remain, but a lesser known fact is that more than twice that number are found in tiger ‘farms’ and other facilities in just four countries in Southeast Asia and East Asia. Many of these facilities produce tiger bone wine and taxidermied skins, thereby stimulating demand and placing wild tigers at risk as they continue to be targeted for their ‘strength’. Measures on the table at CoP17 would re-invigorate a process to tackle this issue which CITES had already set in place as far back as 2002.

Confiscated animals

Many tens of thousands of illegally-traded live CITES-listed animals are confiscated by enforcement authorities every year. However, the authorities involved are usually ill-equipped to deal with the variety of species encountered, and animals inevitably suffer as a result. Born Free will be participating in a workshop in Johannesburg to discuss how enforcement authorities should develop links with wildlife rescue centres and other sources of expertise, aimed at improving the outcomes for confiscated live animals.

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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