APOPO presents at CITES conference

18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties.  

Between 17-28 August 2019, our partner Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) of South Africa and APOPO attended the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference in Geneva, Switzerland. CITES is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The objective of the Convention is to conserve wildlife and prevent international trade from pushing species into extinction.

APOPO established a partnership with the EWT in 2016 to collaborate on a proof-of-concept research study to examine the abilities of the HeroRATs to detect the world’s most widely trafficked mammal, pangolin, as well as illegally logged and trafficked African hardwood. APOPO has finished the first phase of the study successfully showing that the rats are not only able to sniff out pangolin scales and hardwood but that they can differentiate them from common masking items.

With international momentum to tackle illegal wildlife trade continuing to grow, over 2200 participants met at the world’s most important wildlife trade meeting – the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES). APOPO’s Dr Miriam Schneider travelled to Geneva to attend the conference and was given the unique opportunity to present the findings of the study at a side event of the conference: “Harnessing tools and technologies for wildlife law enforcement”.

Dr Schneider was able to promote APOPO’s work on a broad international platform and gain a better grasp of the current situation and developments in the wildlife trade. It also offered a chance to network with wildlife law enforcement officials and NGOs that could help deciding possible future methods for the rats to combat trafficking in real-life settings.

Her presentation was very well received, and discussions revolved around the acceptance of the rats in law enforcement environments and the potential target range of the rats. Western African countries were particularly interested in possible applications as they encounter wildlife law enforcement problems due to lack of affordable detection equipment, corruption and high criminalization of the wildlife trade (involvement of drug cartels).

APOPO is grateful to have been afforded the opportunity by EWT to attend and present at the CITES conference. It made for an interesting week filled with enlightening discussions on using rats for anti-trafficking of threatened wildlife and expanding awareness of the HeroRATs life-saving impact, to a diverse crowd of animal champions and professionals.

APOPO is most grateful for the generous support provided for this proof-of-concept study by the
US Fish and Wildlife Services,  
UKAID and Endangered Wldlife Trust.