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10 October 2016

Mr Stefan van As (Director of Le Croc and Chairman of Exotic Leather South Africa) and Prof Gerry Swan (Director of the Exotic Leather Research Centre, University of Pretoria and Chairman of the South African Crocodile industry Association) attended the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that was held from 24 September to 5 October 2016 at the Sandton International Convention Centre. 

CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animal and was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The convention was signed in Washington DC in 1973 and CITES entered into force on 1 July 1975. Currently there are 182 parties (181 countries and the European Union).

The aim of CITES is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species in the wild. Roughly 5,000 species of animals and 29,000 species of plants are protected by CITES against over exploitation through international trade. Each protected species or population is included in one of three lists, called Appendices I, II and III.

Appendix I are species that are threatened with extinction and are or may be affected by trade. Appendix II species are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilization incompatible with the survival of the species in the wild. Appendix III are species that are listed after a member country has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling trade in a species. The species are not necessarily threatened with extinction globally. In all member countries, trade in species in Annexure II and III is only permitted with an appropriate export permit and a certificate of origin from the state of the member country who has listed the species.

The CoP meeting of CITES is held every three years and is first CoP meeting held in Africa since 2000.  It has been reported as one of the most successful meeting and is considered as the largest gathering of CITES in its 43-year history, attended by 180 countries and more than 1200 participants. It dealt with a record 175 documents and 62 proposals for new measures and policies.

Nile crocodile products originating from Southern African countries is currently listed under Appendix ll which allows for the legal trade of skins and products originating from ranched and captive breeding (i.e. closed cycle) operations. Four proposals, (one each from Madagascar (Crocodylus niloticus), Mexico (Crocodylus moreletii); Malaysia (Crocodylus porosus) and Colombia (Crocodylus acutus)), was successfully served on the listing of crocodilians. The proposal dealt with down grading (Appendix 1 to Appendix ll) of wild harvested skins, permitting legal trade of wild skins under a quota systems. The listing of the Nile Crocodiles in South Africa remained unchanged. Ostriches are not controlled in terms of CITES.

Three documents dealing with electronic systems and information technologies, traceability and on pilot testing of a global traceability information system for reptile skins (including crocodiles) was discussed. These discussions were of particular interest to crocodile industry in South Africa and globally and will reported separately. 

Twenty 28 members of the IUCN-SSC (Species Survival Commission) Crocodile Specialist Group, including Mr van As and Prof Swan, attended the CoP 17 meeting, illustrating the commitment of CSG and crocodile industry to conservation. The Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) is a worldwide network of biologists, wildlife managers, government officials, independent researchers, non-government (NGO) representatives, farmers, traders, tanners, fashion leaders, and private companies actively involved in the conservation of the world's 23 living species of alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gharial in the wild.

In 1971, when the CSG was founded, all 23 species of crocodilians were endangered or threatened. By 1996, after 25 years of considerable effort, one-third of the species (8) were sufficiently abundant to support well-regulated annual harvests, one-third of the species (8) were no longer in danger of extinction but were not harvested, and one-third of the species (7) remain endangered. No other group of vertebrate animals has undergone such a dramatic improvement in conservation status.

The meeting served as an ideal opportunity for networking and discussion on matters of mutual interest. A group of CSG members and other delegates with an interest in crocodiles visited Le Croc on Saturday 1 October (See below). There was a great appreciation by the CSG Steering Committee members for the efforts and excellent work being done by Exotic Leather SA and the Exotic Leather Research Centre in promoting the crocodile industry in South Africa.  The visit to Le Croc also provided the opportunity to demonstrate the level sophistication of the South African crocodile farming and tannery operations to the CSG members. The conference and visit to Le Croc has done much in promoting the status and profile of the South African crocodile industry in the international arena.

COP 17 meeting

From left to right: Jacques van As (Le Croc); Mr. Maraden Purba (Indonesia Pet Association); Adrian Sugiarto  (Crocodile association & CSG Vice Chair, East & Southeast Asia Region); Mr. Mohammad Alais Mashur  (Agarwood Association, Indonesia; Mrs. Ratna Kusuma Sari (Chief of CITES in Indonesia; Sally Isberg (Crocodile researcher Australia & CSG Vice Chair for Red List); Sergio Balaguela-Reina (Crocodile researcher & CSG Vice Chair, Latin America & Caribbean region); Matthew Shirley (Crocodile researcher & CSG Chair for Central & West Africa & Chair for Future Leadership Working Group); Grahame Webb (Australia, CSG Chair); Christine Lippai (USA, CSG  Deputy Chair & CSG Chair for East & Southern Africa region); Stefan Van As (Le Croc & Chairman Exotic Leather South Africa); John Caldwell, UK, CSG Vice Chair for Trade Monitoring); Tom Dacey(CSG Executive Officer, Philippines); Charlie Manolis. CSG Deputy Chair & Chair for Australia & Oceania region); Ari Mathea Wibawanto (Indonesia CITES relation)

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Last edited by Linda PoggenpoelEdit