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Is change in the air?

Peter Borchert reports on the 17th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties, which took place towards the end of last year in Johannesburg

PETER BORCHERT

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What do masobe geckos, silky sharks, Barbary macaques, tomato frogs and Cape mountain zebra have in common with lion, rhino, elephant and Natal ginger? Yes, they are all African life forms, but their real significance is that they and no fewer than a further 24 African species or groups of species were all up for discussion at the recent 17th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP17), which took place in Joburg from 24 September to 5 October.

You might think that events aimed at protecting wildlife from over-exploitation would be pretty straightforward, and to a large extent they are. But often consensus around whether a species might be traded and within what parameters this might take place is distressingly hard to come by. Frequently there are deep divisions leading to dissension and sometimes downright hostility among the member states, not to mention the various NGOs and lobbyists that all push their causes.

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