Wildlife trade: Time to be brave

18 October 2022


Born Free calls on international wildlife trade convention to step up and invest in wildlife protection.

In November 2022, the 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP19) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will take place in Panama City.

At this triennial meeting, signatory governments to CITES will be asked to consider proposals to bring hundreds of species under the Convention’s protection, or to change the level of protection. These proposals involve: marine species such as sharks and rays; more than 200 tree species; reptiles such as crocodiles, caimans and lizards; iconic species of rhinos, elephants and hippos; turtles, frogs and several species of fish; and all species of orchids. The meeting will also consider close to 150 additional documents that will cover issues related to the species already under the protection of the Convention.

Born Free has been advocating for greater CITES protections for wildlife against international trade since the 1980s. However, with at least a million species now at risk of extinction, and the interconnected crises facing biodiversity, the climate and human health threatening the very fabric of life on our planet, the stakes have arguably never been higher.

The cross-border trade in wild animals and plants, and products derived from them, continues to grow exponentially. In many cases, what may once have been small scale subsistence uses of wildlife have become commercialised on an industrial scale, boosted by an unfettered, globalised communications, trade and travel infrastructure. This trade has dire consequences for individual animals and in many cases for their populations, the ecosystems of which they are a part, and the countless direct and indirect services those ecosystems provide to humanity.

CITES regulates trade in more than 38,000 plant and animal species, and the Convention has been key to efforts aimed at securing the survival of many threatened species, including elephants and big cats. Indeed, CITES is widely regarded as one of the most important agreements between the world’s governments, and the natural world would undoubtedly be in a much more precarious state without it. However, in the face of escalating threats to species globally, Born Free believes that CITES needs to do much, much more.

Born Free will be present in Panama, alongside our colleagues from other wildlife charities, urging governments to recognise the vital importance of curbing international wildlife trade as part of a wider effort to protect and restore nature and biodiversity for the sake of wildlife and people alike. In particular, we will be calling on CITES to agree:

  • A bold response to the extinction crisis, and urgent action by CITES to help reduce the risk of future pandemics due to spill-over of pathogens from wild animals to people;
  • Strong and decisive action to curb illegal wildlife trade;
  • Increased protection for animals that are traded live, including support for proposals to introduce or increase trade regulations and restrictions for some 239 species of reptiles and amphibians, many of which are in demand in exotic pet markets around the world; and
  • Greater protections for elephants, rhinoceros, big cats, pangolins, hippos and vultures.

To help guide governments, Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA have produced a technical Position Paper outlining our main priorities and recommendations for CoP19. Species Survival Network (a global coalition of wildlife charities working on trade issues) has also produced a Digest covering all the proposals and documents that will be discussed at the Conference, to which Born Free has contributed.

Born Free’s Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones, who will be leading Born Free’s delegation at CoP19, said: “The crisis facing the world’s wildlife is unprecedented, and the trade in and trafficking of wild animals, plants and parts and products derived from them is a huge part of the problem. Born Free has been advocating for increased protection for wildlife under CITES since 1989. While we have achieved much over the years, never has the need for greater action to curb the trade in wildlife been more urgent. Now is the time to be brave. Now is the time to invest in protecting nature. For all our sakes.”

Born Free will be providing regular updates from CoP19 through our website and social media channels.


Image © David Clode, Unsplash