Increased protections for migratory species but a step change in ambition is needed for global biodiversity protection

Posted on February, 22 2020

Global wildlife meeting agrees increased protection for jaguar, Asian elephant and Oceanic Whitetip shark, but points to difficult negotiations on a global framework for biodiversity protection post-2020.
Gandhinagar, India (22 February 2020) – The 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP13) to the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) ended today in Gandhinagar, India, having agreed to put in place strict protection measures for a number of threatened species including the Oceanic whitetip shark, jaguar and Asian elephant. The meeting also recognized the importance of maintaining ecological connectivity in a rapidly changing world and strengthened conservation efforts for African carnivores.
Governments adopted the Gandhinagar Declaration, intended to input into the negotiations on the adoption of new conservation targets by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which will have its 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in China in October. The declaration calls on the meeting to set ambitious targets to halt the decline of species, recognise the importance of ecological connectivity and functionality and to set out effective actions to address both direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss. Member states however failed to reach a consensus on targets related to protected area coverage and management, and on the links between biodiversity and climate change.
“We are delighted that the Gandhinagar Declaration has emphasized ecological connectivity as a critical issue both for migratory species and also for the Convention on Biological Diversity,” says Colman O'Criodain, WWF wildlife policy manager. “Fragmentation of wildlife habitats has been a major driver of biodiversity loss, and a barrier to the migration of terrestrial species.
The declaration reflects some of WWF’s advocacy asks for the October biodiversity meeting, especially its acknowledgement of the need to address indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, which include food and agricultural systems, finance and economic frameworks, as well as consumption patterns and governance. “Although the Declaration recognises the link between biodiversity and climate change mitigation however - we need to see a step change in ambition as countries look to agree a global framework for biodiversity protection post-2020, particularly at this time when the links between biodiversity and climate change have never been more evident,” says Paul De Ornellas - Chief Advisor, Wildlife - WWF-UK.                 
Specifically, the meeting agreed to increased protections for a number of threatened species.
“The decision to accord strict protection to Oceanic whitetip shark is warmly welcomed,” says Andy Cornish, Leader of "Sharks: Restoring the Balance", WWF's international shark and ray conservation programme. “The most recent conservation assessment indicates that this species is now critically endangered, with global population down by over 98%, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission has highlighted the risk of extinction in that region.”
O'Criodain congratulated the meeting on the adoption of protection measures for jaguar. “This species is one of those at risk from habitat fragmentation,” he said, “while the increasing trade in jaguar teeth and other parts is further cause for concern.”
Also agreed at the meeting were strict protections for the Asian elephant although these at present apply only to the mainland populations. “We urge Indonesia and Malaysia to join the Convention so that their elephant populations can also be brought within the ambit of the Convention,” said O'Criodain.
The meeting also endorsed a joint programme with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for the conservation of African carnivores (lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog) and agreed to step up cooperation on a number of other species, amongst others: smooth hammerhead and tope sharks, and the two Asian migratory river dolphin species, being Irrawaddy and Ganges river dolphin. Member states also adopted cross-cutting measures on a number of key issues, including the pressing concern of insect decline and its impact on migratory species.
“While we welcome the decisions made to increase protections for a number of threatened species, we urge governments to increase their commitment and rapidly act to agree a global framework for our planet’s biodiversity, which is already under immense strain from climate change and nature loss,” added O'Criodain.
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For more information:
Marsden Momanyi, WWF Wildlife Communications,
+254 719784872
Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), Generally only living in open ocean, these opportunistic sharks only come close to shore in few places during mating season, Brother Islands, Red Sea, Egypt
© Simon Lorenz / WWF-Hong Kong