The UN Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) said on Sunday that six days of “intense negotiations” led to new protection for scores of bird, fish and mammal migratory species.
Polar bears, whales, sharks, rays and gazelles were among 31 new species granted new protection status by a UN conservation body, following six days of intense talks by leading conservationists in Quito, Ecuador.
A record 21 species of shark, ray and sawfish were added to the list.
CMS agreed to grant strict protection to the reef manta ray, nine species of devil rays and five sawfish species.
It also committed to work internationally to conserve all three species of thresher sharks, two hammerhead species and the silky shark.
The polar bear, which is found in the Arctic, and the widely-distributed Cuvier’s beaked whale made the list too.
Also newly protected are the red-fronted gazelle, common in Africa, and the great bustard, found in Europe and Asia.
Protecting these animals is key for overall environmental conservation.
“Migratory animals have become the global flagships for many of the pressing issues of our time,” CMS executive secretary Bradnee Chambers said.
“From plastic pollution in our oceans to the effects of climate change, to poaching and over-exploitation, the threats migratory animals face will eventually affect us all.”
More than 900 experts from 120 countries met for the six-day meeting, approving all but one proposed species to be included on the protected wildlife list.
The African lion did not make the final cut because there was not enough information from the countries where it lives.
The conference was the best-attended in the body’s 35-year history, and CMS hailed the “unprecedented” level of attention to the topic.
The director of the UN Environment Program, which administers CMS, said global interest in animal protection was crucial.
“The responsibility for protecting wildlife is a shared one, and the threats to wildlife can be tackled most effectively through global co-operation,” UN Undersecretary-General Achim Steiner, who heads the UNEP, 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,” Alexia Wellbelove,senior program manager at Humane Society International said.
“These decisions will ensure that strict protection is provided for those species most at need, as well as encouraging much needed international co-operation for all these species.”
“Countries now need to focus on ensuring that national protection for these shark and rays are increased and their conservation promoted wherever possible,” she said.
“We therefore call on Australia to ensure that all these listings are implemented in full according to Australian environment law.”
The next CMS meeting will be held in the Philippines in 2017.
31 Species Added To UN Conservation of Migratory Species Protection List.