Thirty-Three Migratory Species Get New Protections

Among the newly protected creatures are lions, chimpanzees, giraffes and whale sharks

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On Saturday, the 12th session of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) concluded in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The organization, which is backed by the United Nations Environment Program, has voted to add new protections to 33 migratory species that cross international borders. 

As the BBC reports, 1,000 delegates from 129 nations that are party to the convention met for the six-day conference. CMS, also known as the Bonn Convention, was established in 1979 and went into effect in 1983. The convention provides a framework to help nations cooperate in conserving species that cross international boundaries, giving them a space and resources to negotiate international treaties and memorandums of understanding. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the convention votes to add species to the CMS appendices, with migratory species listed in Appendix I considered threatened with extinction and are a priority for conservation. Migratory species listed in Appendix II of the convention would benefit from international conservation cooperation.

This year, CMS voted to add 33 species to these appendices. Twelve mammal species were added to list including the leopard and lion, which along with the cheetah and wild dog, listed in 2009, are part of larger African Carnivores InitiativeOther mammals include the giraffe, the African Wild Ass, Przewalski’s Horse and four species of bats. The Gobi bear, a subspecies of brown bear with only 45 individuals remaining in Mongolia and China was added to the appendices as well as the Caspian seal, the only marine mammals that lives in the Caspian sea.

Ten species of vulture were added to the list as well as six other species of birds. Six species of fish were added, including the whale shark—the world’s largest species of fish whose migratory patterns are only now being figured out.

“The Conference in Manila has been a real game changer for the Convention,” executive secretary of CMS Bradnee Chambers says in the press release. “An intensive week of negotiations have resulted in a stronger commitment by countries to step up their efforts to conserve the planet’s migratory wildlife. Thanks to the collective efforts of all, the Convention now has a compliance review mechanism and has adopted species that test the boundaries of international wildlife conservation.”

As the BBC reports, member nations also signed agreements to reduce noise pollution, marine debris and mitigate the impacts of climate change on migratory species. The most interesting move by CMS, however, was the addition of the chimpanzee to the appendices. Chimps are not considered a migratory species. However, the large size of their territories means they often cross international boundaries, making cooperation between nations imperative for their conservation. Hunting of chimps and the loss of forest habitat are their most severe threats, and listing by CMS will help the 21 nations that the animal inhabits, or used to inhabit, cooperate in things like anti-hunting operations.

“Listing on the Appendices of CMS does not just mean adding the species’ name on a piece of paper,” conservationist Ian Redmond said addressing the conference. “It provides stronger legal protection and a framework for collaborative action ranging from joint anti-poacher patrols to higher penalties when wildlife criminals end up in court.”

The United States is not currently a member of CMS, but as NOAA reports the U.S. has signed onto three of the organization's memorandums of understanding, including the conservation of marine turtles in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia, one on migratory shark conservation and another on conserving cetaceans, like whales and dolphins, in the Pacific Islands. The U.S. is also considering signing onto an agreement to conserve albatrosses and petrels.

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