Closing Elephant-Sized Loopholes in the Illegal Wildlife Trade: CITES CoP17 and the Path Forward | Wilson Center
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Closing Elephant-Sized Loopholes in the Illegal Wildlife Trade: CITES CoP17 and the Path Forward

The illegal wildlife trade has seen a dramatic and lucrative resurgence in the past few years. Some of the world’s most iconic species—elephants, rhinos and tigers—are being poached to the brink of extinction to feed the international market. Many species are also being farmed to feed domestic trade, particularly in China, the world’s top consumer of illegal wildlife products. Notably, the United States ranks second in consumption of illegal wildlife products as well.

In September and October, representatives from 183 countries are meeting in Johannesburg to vote on the fate of these and other species. The signatories to the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)—the treaty that regulates that trade—will be deciding on several issues crucial to the survival of endangered wildlife. CoP17 (“Conference of the Parties”) will tackle the challenge of providing increased protection for all eight species of pangolins—the most trafficked mammal in the world—and other animals at the international level, but will also seek to address countries' domestic policy loopholes. In particular, decisions on whether to close all domestic markets in elephant ivory, or enforce a phase out of commercial tiger “farms” will be highly anticipated.

Freshly returned from Johannesburg, our panelists will discuss the impacts of the most recent CITES meeting and the future of wildlife trafficking.



Jennifer Turner, Director, China Environment Forum

Sharon Guynup, Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow


  • Bryan Arroyo

    Assistant Director for International Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Susan Lieberman

    Vice President of International Policy, Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Jeffrey Flocken

    North American Regional Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare