Global Summit On The Illegal Wildlife Trade Opens In South Africa

The insatiable demand for ivory has seen the number of elephants poached rocket in the last decade. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

Josh Davis 26 Sep 2016, 16:13

The world’s major summit on the trade in endangered species opened this weekend, which will see countries try and establish the best way to crack down on and manage the illegal trade in wildlife.

The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) 17th Conference of Parties (CoP) is considered by many conservationists as a last-ditch attempt in saving many of the world’s most iconic species. The summit runs from September 24 to October 5.

The summit is taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa, with representatives of 181 nations expected to attend the international meeting. CITES is a treaty created in 1975 that aims to protect endangered species by tackling the illegal wildlife trade, thought to be worth up to $20 billion annually. Currently, there are 35,000 species protected under CITES, of which 5,600 are animals.

This year’s conference will see the nations discuss and vote on 62 proposals concerning the trade of around 500 different species, submitted by wildlife experts from around the globe. The main focus, however, will likely be around the remaining legal trade in ivory, which many countries want to outright ban. Some, however, are resisting that move, arguing instead that restrictions should be loosened, which would allow them to sell off stockpiles of confiscated ivory.

Other species likely to share the spotlight are rhinos, which have seen a dangerous spike in poaching over the last five years, and pangolins – the little-known scaly anteaters that have the unenviable title of the most trafficked mammal in the world.

The bizarre-looking pangolin is the world's most illegally trafficked mammal. 2630ben/Shutterstock

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