From 24-28 April 2023, the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Secretariat convened a meeting of the CITES Big Cats Working Group in Entebbe, Uganda, to strengthen responses to the global illegal trade in big cats. . More than 70 representatives from 28 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America and representatives from the International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), other international intergovernmental, regional wildlife control networks and non-governmental organizations, attended the meeting of the working group.
The objective of the working group meeting was to develop strategies to strengthen law enforcement responses to combat the illegal trade in big cats and their parts and derivatives, focusing on those big cat species that are of greatest concern from a legal perspective. Conservation and Illegal Trade: Cheetah, Continental Clouded Leopard, Sunda Clouded Leopard, Lion, Jaguar, Leopard, Tiger, and Snow Leopard.
Big cats are affected by illegal international trade and have been targeted over the past decades for their skin, teeth, bones and other body parts, as well as trade in live animals. Data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicate that the world population of tigers in the wild is around 3,000 individuals with a similar figure for snow leopards. The wild cheetah population is estimated at approximately 6,500. The population trend of all big cat species that the Working Group meeting focused on is considered to be declining.
Effective implementation and enforcement of the regulatory framework established by CITES play an important role in preventing and addressing illegal wildlife trade. All big cat species are protected by CITES due to the fact that illegal and unregulated trade poses serious threats to their survival. At the Working Group meeting, there was a strong focus on enforcement and implementation challenges, information and intelligence sharing on the nature of illegal trade and associated illegal trade routes, knowledge sharing on forensics and other processes to identifying big cat specimens in trade, discussing the demand for live big cats, and strengthening front-line cooperation and coordination. Over the course of the five-day meeting, participants identified best practices and innovative approaches to address this illegal trade and established strong professional relationships with their law enforcement counterparts from other countries.
CITES Secretary General Ivonne Higuero said: “Over the last century we have been losing big cats, one of the most majestic predators on the planet, at an alarming rate. Today, big cat populations continue to decline due to habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, wildlife crime, and illegal trade. In recent years, there has been progress in conservation efforts, coexistence strategies, and enforcement measures to address the illegal trade in big cats, but much remains to be done. The CITES Big Cats Working Group meeting has provided an opportunity for Parties, IGOs, NGOs and experts to come together to share knowledge and experience on big cats. The results of this meeting provide input to Parties to strengthen responses to the illegal trade in big cats..”
He meeting results of the CITES Big Cats Working Group will be presented at the 77th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, in November 2023.
These include measures and activities to:
- Strengthen the effective implementation and enforcement of the Convention with regard to illegal trade in specimens of big cats.
- Strengthen regulation of facilities that breed big cats in captivity to prevent and detect any illegal trade in such facilities and deploy enhanced enforcement measures.
- Reduce demand to combat the illegal trade in big cats
- Identification of big cat specimens in trade.
- Strengthen regional and international collaboration to address the illegal trade in big cat specimens.
The CITES Big Cats Working Group meeting was convened by the CITES Secretariat together with its partners in the International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). It was organized by the Republic of Uganda with the support of the US Department of State and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
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More information can be found on the outcome document of the CITES Big Cats Working Group meeting here.
CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
CITES is a legally binding multilateral agreement of 184 Parties, which regulates international trade in more than 40,000 species of wild plants and animals, including their parts and derivatives. Its purpose is to ensure that this trade is legal, sustainable and traceable.
ICCWC – The International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime.
ICCWC is a unique partnership of five intergovernmental organizations: the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank Group (WBG) and the World Customs Organization (WCO).
Through technical assistance, tools, training and operational support, ICCWC works along the entire criminal justice chain, building the capacity of frontline law enforcement in countries and regions around the world affected by crime against wild life.