Response of the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey to the failure of the Proposal to down-list the Peregrine Falcon at CITES CoP17.
The International Association for Falconry and the Conservation of Birds of Prey (IAF) notes with great sadness the decision by the Parties to the 17th Conference of Parties to CITES to reject the Proposal by Canada to down-list the Peregrine Falcon from Appendix I to Appendix II of the CITES Convention.
This Proposal was strongly supported by the IAF, as the global representative of falconers from 80 different nations, not because we seek any increase in trade but because this would have been a celebration of the very real conservation success, following 50 years of work resulting in the restoration of this species.
Falconry and the Peregrine falcon are almost synonymous, particularly in the West. There is a history of sustainable use of this species for at least 2 thousand years but almost certainly much longer. This relationship between man and falcon relied on wild-taken birds which could be released after use and captive breeding was virtually non-existent until the 1950s. This use was abruptly ended with the collapse of Peregrine populations, mainly in the northern hemisphere, in the 1950s. The collapse was first recognized by falconers who noted nesting failures and alerted conservation authorities. The immediate response was to assume that unsustainable trade was the cause. In time, organo-chlorine pesticides, principally DDT, were identified as the culprits. Conservation pressure resulted in the removal of these products from general use, paving the way for recovery of this and the many other species severely affected by a toxic environment.
Fears that unsustainable trade could add to existing threats to the species, resulted in the listing of the Peregrine falcon in CITES Appendix I. The essential requirement for restoration, however was recognition of the real cause and a clean environment. Falconers led a global effort ensued to re-establish this iconic species. The response of falconers in North America and Germany was to pioneer captive breeding of the species and thousands of peregrines have been released to the wild as a result. All over the world, falconers and other enthusiasts, contributed to the restoration through breed and release projects, provision of artificial nesting sites, rehabilitation and public education. With ongoing work in Germany and Poland, the last population of this species to recover are the tree-nesting peregrines in Central Europe. As this population was completely extirpated, restoration required imprinting of new birds on tree-nests; this success represents a process which could possibly take centuries without intervention.
There are now probably more Peregrines in the world than ever before. Increasing populations of pigeons in cities and because of modern agricultural methods have favoured this species. Traditional cliff eyries are occupied and there are now nests on novel sites such as high-rise buildings and quarries. The down-listing would have recognised this considerable success.
All of the significant conservation NGOs, including World Wildlife Fund, TRAFFIC and the World Conservation Society, as well as the CITES Secretariat, acknowledged that the Peregrine falcon no longer warrants inclusion in Appendix I and down-listing is appropriate.
The Proposal to down-list failed, largely through the block-vote of the European Union which commands 28 votes and acts as effective veto, on the basis that there was insufficient information available to
conclude that the precautionary safeguards are met in all exporting countries. This ignores the scientific evidence and the recommendations of major conservation NGOs. We salute Canada for presenting this sound Proposal. We understand that Canada courageously supported its Proposal despite suggestions that it may be more acceptable if the Proposal were limited to only part of the distribution range of this species.
This decision by the CoP 17 of CITES is a success for those who oppose the sustainable use wildlife and it fails to recognize this conservation success. This Congress of the Parties was characterised by statements paying lip-service to rural communities and those whose livelihoods and cultures are intimately involved with wildlife while imposing restrictions on use even to the detriment of demonstrable conservation benefits. The failure of CITES to respond to a dramatic conservation success must bring into question the whole mechanism of this Convention and highlight the inordinate influence of anti-use and animal rights groupings on its function. Finally, the strategic decision for the 28 European Union votes to be applied together instead of as independent Parties must bring into question the access of other Parties to fair democratic participation.
Falconers can and will continue to rejoice in the successful restoration of the Peregrine falcon. We hold our heads high in recognition of this notable achievement. We will use this as a focus for our celebrations on World Falconry Day (16th November). Falconers, around the world will look to other conservation challenges which need to be addressed including the devastation of bird of prey populations by electrocution and we will continue to oppose illegal trade in wildlife.
Adrian Lombard, President IAF, 1st October 2016.