A Few Important Notes on Changes to CITES and Animal Remains

As a hide and bone artist it’s part of my business to do my due diligence in knowing the laws governing possession and trade in animal remains. That’s why I’ve maintained the Animal Parts Laws Pages for a few years now–it’s a good resource for me, and one that I can share with others, too.

I wanted to point out some of the most relevant recent changes to CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. CITES is an agreement among almost every country in the world to monitor and restrict trade in endangered species, both alive and dead, and last month they had their big annual meeting where they decide what animals will maintain protection, and which will get more or less protection than before. Because some of these animals have remains that are sometimes seen in the Vulture Culture, and because not everyone knows about the recent changes, I wanted to bring more attention to them. These are not the full summary of the CITES changes, of course; I haven’t yet been able to find notes from this year’s meeting (the most recent set on the CITES website are from 2013.) If anyone has an online version of these notes I’d greatly appreciate it.

So–on to my own summary!

–Elephants in most African countries are CITES I; however, those in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe are still CITES II. Attempts to uplist these to CITES I were blocked, which means those countries can still trade their ivory legally. (Keep in mind that the United States has banned almost all trade in ivory, so those of us stateside should not be trying to import CITES II ivory!)

–Pangolins, which are the most heavily trafficked endangered mammal, got overwhelming support for CITES I protection for all species. We really shouldn’t be encouraging trade in such a critically endangered critter anyway, but now it’s officially illegal. So just go get yourself a replica skull for your collection and donate some cash to an organization helping to protect these scaly anteaters.

–African lions already became illegal to trade in the United States (except for a very few exceptions) when they got added to the Endangered Species List earlier this year. CITES now bans the trade in all wild lion parts–but it is still legal for the bones, teeth and claws of captive-bred lions to be traded, and hunting trophies can still be exported. Considering the IUCN estimated the remaining wild lion population at 20,000 across the continent (the population was 450,000 in the 1940s, less than a century ago), things are looking dire for the biggest cat not given CITES I protections. My recommendation, even if you are in a country that allows lion parts to be traded, is avoid–it’s easy to lie and say that bones from wild lions actually came from captive ones, and this is one animal that really needs the pressure taken off of it.

–African gray parrots were given CITES I protection. Thanks to their popularity as pets (boosted by the now-deceased Alex, whose charisma often enticed unwitting people to take on pets they weren’t prepared for), African grays have been relentlessly hunted for the pet trade. Habitat loss is also a major factor in their decline. CITES I protection means that it’s now illegal to trade in the remains as well as live specimens of this specie; here’s hoping this intelligent little dinosaur will now have a better chance at recovery.

–Skulls of several species of hornbill are often legally traded in the Vulture Culture, but if you ever see someone offering the skull of a helmeted hornbill, watch out! This species has been declining in recent years as its solid bill became an alternative to elephant ivory for carving and other art. It already had CITES I protection, but this year the meeting emphasized the need to publicize that fact. So here I am, helping to publicize it!

I hope you find this helpful; again, you can research more about legalities related to animal remains at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/animal-parts-laws/ (and, as always, neither this post nor the resources I provide are intended to be legal advice. I am not a legal professional and have no legal training, I am just an artist doing layperson’s research.)

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