Endangered animals afforded some more protection

A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk. (Alistair Scrutton, Reuters)

A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk. (Alistair Scrutton, Reuters)

Polar bears are among 31 species approved for greater protection by more than 100 countries. But a proposal to list the African lion was rejected.

The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) conference in Ecuador closed on Sunday with new listings for a whale capable of the world’s deepest ocean dives, and 21 sharks, rays and sawfish. But the African lion didn’t make the list because of a lack of data.

The Norwegian proposal to protect the estimated 20 000 to 25 000 polar bears, which are threatened by melting ice, Arctic oil exploration and hunting, saw the species gain an Appendix II listing.
That means countries must work together to put in place conservation plans.

The move was hailed by conservationists as an important step to saving the endangered mammal.

Masha Vorontsova, the director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare Russia, said: “We are pleased to see the polar bear joining a growing list of threatened migratory species protected under CMS. Appendix II does not mean that sufficient conservation action will be taken to protect the wellbeing of polar bears.

“What gives us hope is that this listing means that 120 countries are now recognising the threats that polar bears face from the shrinking of their ice habitat to pollution and hunting. This is an important first step, but it must not be the last if we wish to save the polar bear.”

The stronger Appendix I listing requires strict protections such as bans on killing an animal.

The top level of protection, Appendix I, was issued for the rarely seen Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), which scientists have recorded as diving as deep as 3km below the water’s surface.

The meeting in Quito also agreed that the 120 parties to the convention should pass laws to ban the capture of whales and dolphins for use in travelling shows and entertainment.

Cathy Williamson, of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said: “This very positive development from CMS sends a clear message of international concern about the impact of live captures for the aquarium industry on wild whale and dolphin populations.”

Campaigners praised the new protections for rays and sharks, with countries agreeing to take steps to stop the practice of finning, by which sharks are caught and their fins cut off for use in soup.

Alexia Wellbelove, of the Humane Society International, said: “Today’s commitment at CMS by countries to provide greater protection for shark and ray species is an unprecedented step forwards in the conservation of sharks and rays worldwide.”

Governments agreed that the use of lead shot should be cut down to stop the poisoning of migrating birds, despite the United Kingdom initially opposing the move.

Guidelines were settled for the first time on how to protect birds and bats from wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy.

Bradnee Chambers, the convention’s executive secretary, said: “Like never before in the 35-year history of CMS, migratory animals have become the global flagships for many of the pressing issues of our time. From plastic pollution in our oceans to the effects of climate change to poaching and overexploitation, the threats migratory animals face will eventually affect us all.” – © Guardian News & Media 2014

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