New Delhi: Highly endangered chimpanzees, whale sharks, steppe eagles and vultures need the highest level of protection globally. Likewise, both India and Indonesia should tighten regulations on shark fishing, US-based advocacy Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) contends.
Ahead of a crucial UN summit on wildlife that will see a gathering of over 120 countries in the Philippine capital Manila from October 23 to 28, it said India must take strong action to close those fisheries that are not sustainable.
Both India and Indonesia, as major shark fishing and exporting countries, should tighten their regulations on fishing of sharks and other species to ensure sustainability, WCS Vice President for International Policy Susan Lieberman said.
Many shark species are threatened, endangered or otherwise vulnerable to over-fishing and unregulated fisheries.
"India must take strong action to ensure sustainable coastal fisheries, and close those fisheries that are not sustainable," Lieberman added.
Officials representing countries, including India, will gather in the Philippines for the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species, or CMS COP12, the only international treaty devoted exclusively to migratory animal species.
A large number of proposals for greater protection under the Convention will be tabled for negotiation, including well-known species such as the chimpanzee, giraffe, leopard, lion and the whale shark.
Fifteen species of vultures in 128 countries, including four that are critically endangered in India, may also get a fresh lease of life with a 12-year, multi-species coordinated action plan to conserve them set to take wing at the summit.
Lieberman, who is also participating in the CMS COP12, said a large number of wildlife species are indeed threatened by poaching and illegal trade like trafficking and this impacts both migratory and non-migratory species.
The notable species facing significant threats from illegal killing and trade include elephants, rhinos, tigers, pangolins, tortoises, freshwater turtles, parrots and macaws.
"We will support the proposals to include the chimpanzee, whale shark, steppe eagle and the vulture in Appendix I, the CMS' highest level of protection," she said.
Advocating the need to work with governments to ensure a strong political will to combat wildlife trafficking, the WCS opposes international rhino horn trade as it's illegal under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and because it threatens the existence of rhinos in Africa and Asia.
"There are moves by some people to allow trade in horns, but our analyses are clear that this would stimulate further illegal trade and laundering of illegal horns and would threaten rhinos even further," said Lieberman, who has worked on the international wildlife trade for more than 25 years.
It would also undermine efforts by governments such as of China and Vietnam to strongly enforce their laws against trafficking rhino horns and to change the behaviour of consumers, she said.
Saying that whale sharks are also captured illegally for display purposes besides for their meat and fins, Lieberman said: "We support strong regulations on fishing everywhere."
As per the CMS COP12 agenda, the Philippines, Israel and Sri Lanka have jointly submitted a proposal for upgrading the global status of the whale shark, found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, for its higher protection and conservation.
India is among 121 nations that are home to this species with continuing global population declines.
Africa's lions, wild dogs, leopards and cheetahs are all set to get increased protection with the CMS and CITES proposing a new initiative to halt a serious decline in their numbers.
An inter-governmental task force to curb illegal killing of migratory birds will also be high on the agenda at the summit, the organisers said.
"Intensive hunting and illegal killing are driving many endangered bird species to the brink of extinction. Countries which they transit share a joint responsibility to implement measures to protect them," CMS Executive Secretary Bradnee Chambers said in an official statement.
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