Over 120 nations have voted to increase the global protection of 34 species of endangered animals, including chimpanzees, African lions, and whale sharks. The action is the result of a week-long session of talks and debates involving over 1,000 people and headed by the United Nations Environment Programme.
This past week has seen 129 countries meet in the Philippines for the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS), which aims to help nations to better protect the animals that frequently cross borders as they go about their lives. “If the species is moving around all of these countries, everybody has to pitch in,” said Bradnee Chambers, the executive secretary of CMS.
For the first time, one of the symbols of the African continent – the iconic giraffe – will now receive protection under an international treaty. While some populations of the spotty long-necked leaf-muncher in southern Africa are expanding, overall the animals are in decline across much of Africa, with less than 90,000 now thought to roam the savanna.
Other African critters were also highlighted, with lions, leopards, and chimpanzees singled out as needing far greater protection. The conference noted that chimps are especially at risk, as their numbers have tumbled over recent years, while there are plans in place to create an African Carnivores Initiative, which will aim to bolster support not only for the lion and leopard but also cheetah and wild dog.
“Migratory animals play a critical role in our planet’s ecosystem,” said Theresa Mundita, the Director of the Philippine’s Biodiversity Management Bureau, on Saturday. “They act as pollinators, control pests and are a source of food and income. They are also an inspiration for people here in the Philippines and all around the world.”
The delegates voted to increase the protection for three species of shark and three species of ray, including that of the biggest fish on Earth, the whale shark. Recognizing its draw for tourists, and the money that this then brings into the country, the Philippines were instrumental in lobbying for its better protection.
In addition to these animals, they have also voted to increase protection on 10 species of vultures, which despite the critical work they do in the ecosystem, are currently being decimated, as well as for the only known population of bears to live in a desert, the Gobi bear, of which only 45 are thought to remain.
The conference dedicated to the protection of migratory species is the largest one to happen to date, renewing hope that countries are actually interested and invested in protecting the natural world, and the wildlife that moves within and across their borders.