The Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, Prof. Judi Wakhungu, presided over the final national CITES stakeholders’ briefing session this week, as Kenya entered the homestretch of her preparations for the CITES CoP17 to be held next month in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The preparations process started with the commissioning of a National CITES Technical Committee earlier in the year and included representation from CITES experts, from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kenya Wildlife Service, the National Museums of Kenya, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the State Department of Fisheries and Blue Economy, the Kenya Forest Service, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, and representation from the Conservation Alliance of Kenya.
The first retreat of the National CITES Committee was held in April 2016 in Kilaguni Lodge in Tsavo West National Park to prepare country submissions to CoP17.
A second retreat of the Committee to review proposals submitted by other countries and prepare country interventions and positions on each was held 2 weeks ago.
The national stakeholders briefing is the final stage in Kenya’s consultative preparation through a national multi-agency CITES Technical committee.
In total, Kenya has submitted 14 proposals covering a wide range of wild species, including the African elephant, African Pangolins, species of snakes endemic to Kenya, the thresher sharks, species of chameleons, plant species, and others, on measures to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.
These proposals, together with others submitted by other Parties to the Convention, have since been uploaded on the CITES website (cites.org) in readiness for discussion as agenda items of the triennial World Wildlife Conference.
Over 180 proposals are lined up for discussion, as agenda items of the Conference that will bring together 183 States that are Parties to the Convention. The Parties will take critical decisions on wildlife trade policy and the scope of regulatory control over international trade in specific wild species.
The CITES Convention is an international framework for regulation of trade in certain endangered species of wild animals and plants to ensure use of such species is sustainable and not detrimental to their survival in the wild.
The provisions of the Convention are binding to the signatory States, Kenya being one of them since 1978.
CITES is about regulation through permitting, of international trade and about certain species that are subject to the listing in the Appendices of the Convention: Appendix I, II and III.
The purpose of this session was to brief national stakeholders on the proposals the government has prepared and submitted to the CITES CoP17 and some of the provisional positions that will be articulated at CoP17.
Kenya remains committed to playing its rightful role in ensuring that international trade in endangered species of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.
That is why Kenya has been lobbying Parties to the CITES Convention to ensure discussions of the proposals bear this intention in mind.
Prof. Wakhungu reiterated that Kenya’s proposals, especially on listing the African Elephant on Appendix I, is further informed by the call made by President Uhuru Kenyatta during the burning of country’s ivory stockpile in April. The proposals are supported by 28 other African States and Sri Lanka, and are meant to offer the highest level of protection of the species under CITES framework.
The listing proposal is accompanied by 4 other complimentary proposals also supported by the 28 other African States: closure of domestic ivory markets, management of stockpiles, suspension of decision-making mechanism process, and control of trade in live elephants.
Prof. Wakhungu called on all delegates to the Johannesburg conference, both the government and observer delegates, to familiarize themselves with the country proposals and, as much as possible, seek any clarification from her as the Head of Government delegation or her designated alternate heads of delegate(s) on any issue regarding the country position.
The Kenyan proposal met with fierce resistance by some Southern African countries, among them South Africa, which has suffered a massive rhino poaching crisis in recent years with little visible counteraction by their government and where presently the number of poaching incidents of elephants is rising at an alarming rate.
It is in fact South Africa which is broadly blamed on the elephant poaching crisis after luring CITES members to allow what was then termed a one-off sale of so-called legal ivory, which in the opinion of many leading conservation experts around the world, however, opened the door for growing demand, most of it originating in China and satisfied by and large through the poaching of tens of thousands of elephant in Africa in recent years.