Convention on Migratory Species CoP 13

What Is the Convention On Migratory Species and Why Is It Important?

By Susan Lieberman | February 14, 2020

Photo credit: ©Roberto Lorenzo

Gandhinagar, India

The 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP13) to the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and associated meetings will take place Feb. 15–22 in Gandhinagar, India, and I’ll be there along with colleagues from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

I have been to many CMS meetings, and it is always an enriching experience. The theme of this meeting is: “Migratory Species Connect the Planet and Together We Welcome Them Home.” This focus highlights the need for international action to protect migratory species across our planet, and that our lives and those of wildlife are inextricably linked.

WCS has worked with governments, local communities and its conservation partners to establish and manage protected areas and take other actions for many CMS-listed species, including: whales and dolphins; African forest elephants; cheetah; saiga antelope; vicuña; snow leopard; sea turtles; sharks and rays; and many others.

“We live in a rapidly changing world, and wildlife species are threatened by a myriad of cumulative threats that include climate change, poaching, and energy extraction. Those threats particularly imperil migratory animals.”

We live in a rapidly changing world, and wildlife species are threatened by a myriad of cumulative threats, including climate change, poaching and illegal trade, over-exploitation, habitat destruction and deterioration, oil and gas extraction, and infrastructure. Those threats particularly imperil migratory animals.

CMS is the only international agreement devoted exclusively to these migratory animals. The International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services issued its warning last year that 1 million species are at risk of extinction — and CMS is the only show in town for migratory species. I am looking forward to joining the 130 Governments that are Parties to CMS (members) to spend time devoted to species conservation.

The agenda for the CMS CoP in India is full, and I look forward to proposals to provide greater protection for vulnerable species (including the jaguar, Asian elephant, and others), and on various issues and initiatives.

The jaguar proposal is of particular importance. The proposal submitted by Costa Rica, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay seeks to include the jaguar on CMS Appendices I and II, and strongly urges its adoption. Appendix I is for endangered species and prohibits all removal from the wild, while Appendix II requires countries that share a species to cooperate on its conservation.

“The International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services issued its warning last year that 1 million species are at risk of extinction — and CMS is the only show in town for migratory species.”

The jaguar is an emblematic species of the Americas, due to both its importance in maintaining natural landscapes and ecosystem functionality, and as an important element of indigenous cultures for centuries. The jaguar is the largest native feline in the Americas and a migratory, transboundary species.

Today, more than at any time in history, the jaguar is threatened by habitat loss, direct persecution, and declines in prey populations. Poaching for jaguar body parts is also on the rise.

Oceanic whitetip shark, proposed for CMS Appendix I listing. Photo credit: Jim Abernathy

A large number of jaguar sub-populations are Endangered or Critically Endangered, across their range (Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela).

The inclusion of this species on the CMS Appendices will clearly benefit the conservation of this emblematic and ecologically important species, and proponent governments will urge the CMS Conference to heed the call to protect the jaguar.

I am particularly excited to attend this meeting in Gandhinagar, the capital of the Indian state of Gujarat, because it was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi.

“As host of this conference, India shows its commitment to migratory and other endangered species, and its cultural and political commitments to ensuring a future for its precious wildlife species.”

I have seen first-hand India’s precious and beautiful nature and wildlife (including elephants, leopards, gaur, chital, sambar, sloth bear, raptors, other birds, and so much more). India is a megadiverse country with 1.3 billion people, with vast challenges of sustainable development, education, and gender equity.

Yet I am deeply moved. As host of this conference, India shows its commitment to migratory and other endangered species, and its cultural and political commitments to ensuring a future for its precious wildlife species. Gandhi said, “The future depends on what we do in the present.”

May the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi guide governments in their deliberations at this meeting, so that actions and decisions taken today will ensure a future for wildlife and nature — here in India and across the globe.

Susan Lieberman is Vice President for International Policy at WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).

Wildlife Conservation Society

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WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

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