Monday, 26 September 2016

SOUTH AFRICA: WildlifeTruths At CITES

This weekend has been one for the history books. Firstly, 17th Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora kicked off in Johannesburg, placing emphasis on the importance of our natural heritage.

South Africans also celebrated a hot weekend in cultural sense of the word – fires were lit in celebration of our epic Heritage Day, and high temperatures across the country made sure the ice in our drinks were well appreciated.

For the week ahead, the hot weather seems to continue.

SA’s president Jacob Zuma officially opened the 17th Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Johannesburg, and event considered as one of the most important wildlife conferences focusing on the protection and monitoring of trade in wildlife.

President Zuma along with minister Edna Molewa opened the conference, running until 05 October 2016, with some 3 500 delegates in attendance.

During his opening address Zuma stated that South Africa was one of the biggest exporters of biological products to the international market and that regulation of the international trade in wildlife was crucial.

Among the high-profile cases expected to draw attention at the convention in Johannesburg are the African elephant, the white rhino, the pangolin, sharks, rosewood, the African Grey parrot and the African lion.

As the12-day conference got underway, South Africans joined the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, with more than 120 cities uniting across the globe shifting the focus on the most endangered species across the planet.

The march took place in Cape Town on Friday 23 September, with Durban and Johannesburg all participating on SA Heritage Day 24 September.

As we focus on Heritage Month and especially on our endangered wildlife at CITES, a new heritage monitoring project initiative has been launched.

This annual project aims to highlight SA's most endangered national heritage sites.

The Most Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites campaign, an annual initiative of the Heritage Monitoring Project (HMP) and the Heritage Association of South Africa will see an annual call for the public to nominate sites and help raise awareness of significant risk from natural or man-made forces.

Between June and August this year, more than 46 heritage sites across a range of categories were submitted - The longlist of submissions included cultural landscapes, archaeological and palaeontological sites, built heritage, industrial heritage, burial sites, military sites, public open space and even South Africa’s oldest nature reserve.

The final list of endangered sites for 2016 include amaMpondo Cultural Heritage Landscape, Buffelsjachtsrivier Bridge, Canteen Kopje, Central Mill Rimers Creek, Cullinan Mine Workers Compound, East Fort, Pageview, Pilgrims Rest town, Timbershed and Westfort Village.

As the 17th annual Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of Parties (CoP17), is taking place to 5 October, conservationists are questioning the relevance of the issues at stake and what one can expect from the hosts: SA.

A huge range of pressing issues will be addressed this year, and many concerns are pertinent to South Africa - especially our Big 5.

For starters, a vote on the domestic trade in ivory is to be taken, while a proposal from a few southern African countries - like Swaziland - to trade in rhino horn will also be tabled.

The re-listing of the African lion form CITES II to CITES I, meaning a downscale in the species' protection, will also be considers, while the global call to place a ban on canned lion hunting will also be addressed.

It's bound to be a heavy debate with ground-breaking outcomes.

And once again, it was an affair to be remembered. Braai fires were lit with to common goal of uniting around a fire, but more importantly – South Africa’s diverse heritage was celebrated in the cultural and natural sense.

SA’s favourite braaier, Jan Braai, says although he’s chuffed the Braai Day’s success, the braaiing is only an initiative aimed at placing emphasis on our cultural and natural heritage on Heritage Day.

The award was decided by the South African public via a Twitter poll that ran for one week. The poll was met with a huge response, with over 40 000 voters taking part.
South Africans had the option of voting for music producer Black Coffee, 2016 Olympic 800m-champion Caster Semenya, opera star Pretty Yende, and Van Niekerk.

Black Coffee was nominated for becoming the first South African to win a BET Award. In June this year the artist was the recipient of the Best International Act – Africa category. Semenya was nominated for her gold medal success in Rio, while soprano singer Yende, who has won critical acclaim in the opera houses of Vienna, Moscow, Milan and New York, has recently released her first solo album.

In the end, Van Niekerk’s superb run from lane eight in the Olympic 400m final sealed the deal; not only did he claim South Africa’s first gold medal at the Rio Games (Semenya claimed the second), but his time of 43.03 seconds also broke the 400m world record set in 1999.