At a press briefing held today, the Director of the Department for National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), Brighton Kumchedwa highlighted a number of historic outcomes from Malawi’s participation in the recent Conference of the Parties for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). The meeting was held between 17-18 August in Geneva.
CITES is a treaty between governments that regulates the international trade in wild animals and plants. Malawi’s role at this year’s Conference of the Parties was marked by three significant achievements:
- The CITES Secretariat recommended that Malawi exit from the National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) process, in recognition of the fact that it has made significant progress in tackling the illegal trade in ivory.
- CITES’ Parties voted in favour of proposals from the Malawian delegation to include two of Malawi’s threatened tree species under its protections. Mulanje Cedar (Widdringtonia whytei)and African Mukluk (Pterocarpus tinctorius) will be included in Appendix II of CITES’ trade controls. Species listed in Appendix II are granted protection that prohibits trade that is ‘incompatible with their survival’.
- CITES assessed Malawi’s wildlife legislation as meeting the standards of Category 1, which means that it is among the strongest in the world.
Brighton Kumchedwa, Director of the DNPW, said: “I was proud to lead the Malawian delegation to the 18th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES. Over the last few years my department, together with colleagues across the Government, have worked hard to clamp down on wildlife crime and protect our precious natural resources. It is encouraging that our efforts were recognised at the Conference of the Parties but, of course, our work does not stop here. Our nation continues to face a number of environmental challenges and it is our duty to do everything we can to make Malawi a safe haven for nature.”
The Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES takes place every three years, which means the next event will take place in 2022. Over the next couple of years, the DNPW will focus on building its capacity to fulfil its obligations under CITES. This will include strengthening systems and tools to aid in the fight against wildlife crime, such as an electronic permitting system and a species identification system.
National Ivory Action Plans (NIAPs) are practical tools to help countries that are signed up to the Convention (known as ‘Parties’) combat the illegal trade in ivory. Each plan outlines the measures that a CITES Party must deliver – including legislative, enforcement and public awareness actions – along with specified time frames and milestones for implementation. Countries are identified as Category A, B or C parties, according to how affected they are by the ivory trade (with Category A identifying those countries ‘most affected’).
Malawi was requested to develop a NIAP in 2017, following the Elephant Trade Information System report which was submitted to CITES in 2016. The report categorised Malawi as a ‘Category A’ party. Earlier in 2019, Malawi submitted its latest progress report to the CITES Secretariat, advising that 84% of the activities in its NIAP had been completed, and the remaining activities are substantially achieved/on track. This fulfils the CITES’ requirements that over 80% of activities be completed before a country can request to exit the NIAP process.
CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected threatened species to certain controls. The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival. Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. At each CITES meeting Parties submit proposals to amend the Appendices. Those amendment proposals are discussed and then submitted to a vote.
Widdringtonia whytei (Mulanje cedar)
This species is considered to be “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species after years of overexploitation from unsustainable and illegal logging combined with human-induced changes to the fire regime, invasive competing tree species, aphid infestation, and low rates of regeneration or recruitment. As of 2018, population surveys did not find a single standing, reproductively mature tree on the Mulanje Mountain. Small plantation areas have been established in other areas of Malawi and a major effort is underway to replant the cedar on Mount Mulanje, but until such efforts have resulted in the renewal and stabilisation of the population, any trade, international or national, in its timber should be considered a threat to the survival of the species.
Pterocarpus tinctorius (African padauk, mukluk)
Pterocarpus tinctorius is a rosewood species native to a range of habitats across east and southern Africa. The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in harvest and export from several countries, both legal and illegal, following a by-now familiar pattern directly linked to Asian demand. Available information indicate that the illegal and unsustainable exploitation of Pterocarpus tinctorius has already had severe reported impacts on its wild populations in various range States. Unless rapidly checked, the growing unsustainable and illegal exploitation of Pterocarpus tinctorius for international trade is likely to lead the commercial extinction of the species in various range States.
CITES’ National Legislation Project allocates all Parties into three categories according to whether their national laws enable the country to fully implement the Convention:
- Category 1: legislation that is believed generally to meet the requirements for implementation of CITES.
- Category 2: legislation that is believed generally not to meet all of the requirements for the implementation of CITES.
- Category 3: legislation that is believed generally not to meet the requirements for the implementation of CITES