WCS-India at CMS-CoP 13

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Posted in: From WCS-India

India is hosting the Thirteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CoP13 India) at Gandhinagar, Gujarat between the 15th and 22nd February 2020.

The theme of this meeting is “Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home”.

WCS-India is organizing four side-events, two events at the India Pavilion and an exhibition.


15th February, 2020 (Day 1)

Exhibition: An exhibition to showcase WCS-India’s work has been set up at the venue.

WCS team at CMS-CoP 13

Stakeholder Dialogue on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework
Organised today, this event aimed at stimulating a discussion among representatives of governments, international and national organizations, local communities and members of civil society on perspectives regarding the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and CMS priorities.

Dr. Susan Lieberman, Vice-President, International Policy, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), gave an opening presentation and  moderated the Q&A session.

Dr. Susan Lieberman, WCS, promotes Marine Protected Areas to help protect wildlife, habitats and livelihoods at CMS-CoP 13.


16th February, 2020 (Day 2)

High Level Meet

Shri. Prakash Javadekar, Honourable Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change addressed the gathering at CMS-CoP 13, speaking about participation of researchers, activists, NGOs and others in preservation, conservation and protection of the natural world. He also spoke about community based conservation efforts for Amur Falcons in Nagaland. “People who used to kill are now protecting Amur Falcons. This is the role of public participation”, said Mr. Javadekar.


Amy Fraenkel, Executive Secretary of CMS, spoke about the conservation status of migratory species. “The conservation status of migratory species and their habitats are worsening. Most of the species that are listed on Appendix-I are declining. So clearly, we have to take hard look at what we are doing and see what we can do to step up our action. CMS is the only global agreement that has the mandate to focus on migratory species and their habitats. It is time that we really move it to the next level. This CoP is happening at the incredible opportune moment, its being called as super year for biodiversity with the chance that help shape the next decade’s biodiversity strategy which is being called as Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework,” said Amy.

She also spoke about ecological connectivity. “We should know it because it is essentially what is needed for migratory species to survive and to move from one place to another during their natural cycles. They should have both freedom of movement but also have to arrive at the habitats that are ready to support their needs. That is what ecological connectivity is about,” she added.

Dr. Susan Lieberman, WCS questions global leaders at the High Level Segment, CMS-CoP 13

“We know that greater ambition is needed to conserve migratory species and the ecosystem they depend on. That’s the key the key to the connectivity. All of you have spoken about, the need to end the unsustainable use, to maintain the integrity of ecosystems and particularly the biodiverse forest, all coral reefs and grasslands that are safe havens for so many of our migratory species. Government and all of us must commit to achieve that mission. My question to all of the Government representatives, will you commit in protecting or conserving 30% of the ocean and 30% of the land by 2030 as proposed in zero draft?”


17th February, 2020 (Day 3)

Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS-CoP 13) begins in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri. Prakash Javadekar, Inaugurates CMS-CoP 13 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat

Honourable Prime Minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi addresses the gathering

Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) at Gandhinagar in Gujarat today.

At the event, he spoke about the diversity of the wildlife in India and the state of wild places in the country today. He also highlighted the efforts taken across various projects in the country and made special mention of the government’s captive breeding program on the Great Indian Bustard. “These species connect the planet and we shall welcome them home together. It is our responsibility to protect them and live in harmony,” said the PM.


WCS side event: Advancing Jaguar Conservation

Governments collaborating critical for jaguar conservation: Dr. Susan Lieberman

Dr. Susan Lieberman, Vice-President, International Policy, WCS, talked about various aspects of jaguar conservation and issues related to it. She was speaking at a side event titled, ‘Advancing Jaguar Conservation’ organized at CMS-CoP 13 on Monday.

“If we look at the status of jaguars in Mesoamerica, we can see a significant reduction in the size of wild population from 2000 – 2015; there is no question that those populations are endangered. Jaguars move back and forth across borders and there is much evidence to support such movements like across the Guatemala border and Mexico border.”

Talking about populations of jaguars in the Amazon and south, Susan Lieberman said that these regions have lost five times more forest per year than Mesoamerica. “One tenth of the total Amazon forest has gone in the last decade and this doesn’t count what has been lost to fire. So even if we extrapolate, there is no question of significant declines in jaguar populations. CMS is critical in the context of the need for governments to work together and collaborate.”

Speaking about the Jaguar 2030 Roadmap project, she stressed upon increasing the security and connectivity of the core protected jaguar landscape. “The governments of 18 range states of jaguars have come together and developed the roadmap. One of the objectives of the roadmap is to increase the security and connectivity of the core protected landscape and this can only be done by governments collaborating. Range-wise coordination for protection, connectivity and enhancement of jaguar is the first pathway. CMS will go a long way to assist in implementation of the Jaguar roadmap,” said Susan Lieberman.


WCS-India team with Nagaland Forest Department at CMS-CoP 13


WCS-India team with Agneshwar Vyas, IFS (third from the left) and Sudha Ramen, IFS (fifth from the left) at CMS-CoP 13

Agneshwar Vyas, DCF, Dang (North) Division, was one of the participants of the “One week compulsory training on voluntary relocation from Tiger Reserves” at Bhadra Tiger Reserve which was organised by MoEFCC and WCS-India in November 2019.

Sudha Ramen is the Deputy Director, Arignar Anna Zoological Park, and is actively involved in conservation work in Tamil Nadu.


Babul Supriyo, Union Minister of State for Environment, at the WCS-India Exhibition stall at CMS-CoP 13

18th February, 2020 (Day 4)

Dr. Susan Lieberman, WCS on COP-Appointed Councillor Subject Areas at CMS-CoP 13


WCS side event: Racing Extinction, challenges in Cheetah conservation & the African Carnivores initiative


Dr. Susan Lieberman, Vice President, International Policy, WCS

Dr. Susan Lieberman, Vice President, International Policy, WCS, spoke at an event titled, ‘Racing Extinction, challenges in Cheetah conservation & the African Carnivores initiative’. Responding to a question on the role of the African Carnivore initiative in bringing CITES and CMS together to look at long term protection of the cheetahs, Susan Lieberman said, “It is an incredible initiative and extremely useful for the governments that are implementing CITES and CMS. It can be used as a tool for collaboration, sharing of best practices, knowledge and expertise. However, it can be an important tool for fund raising as well. If we see the post 2020 framework, and look at issues like climate change, going forward, I can envision a massive initiative of some kind under this joint initiative.”

Talking about the connectivity issue, she emphasized on the fact that majority of the cheetahs across various countries live outside protected areas. “The governments need to collaborate and look at some of the solutions that are not just about establishment and management of national parks. While it is critical to establish national parks, for cheetahs that are living outside the protected areas, we should talk about building connectivity to stimulate funding and action. Moreover, irrespective of the treaties, all such platforms should be used to discuss all the threats and all the solutions surrounding conservation of carnivores,” said Susan.


WCS-India team with Anita Karn, CCF, Kutch Circle, Sanjeetha Gupta, CCF, Bilaspur and Karunapriya, CCF, Chennai at CMS-CoP 13


India announces a marine mammal survey in Indian waters at CMS-CoP 13.


Luke Warwick, Associate Director for Sharks and Rays programme at WCS, on Resolution on Chondrichthyan Species at CMS CoP13


19th February, 2020 (Day 5)

WCS-India Side Event: Control of Illegal Trade – in Wildlife Including Migratory Species

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-India, in collaboration with Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), and TRAFFIC – India, organised a side event titled ‘Control of Illegal Trade in Wildlife Including Migratory Species’ at CMS-CoP13 at Gandhinagar, Gujarat on Wednesday.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Susan Lieberman, Vice President, International Policy, WCS, said that to stop the illegal wildlife trade, there is a need to disrupt the organised criminal network. “We can arrest every poacher and there will be ten more to fill in the space. So, it is important to shut down the criminal network. All this poaching and trafficking for highly valuable animals and their body parts is increasingly run by organised criminal syndicates. This is not the occasional villager hunting something and hoping someone comes around to buy it. These are organised criminals and you are seeing them and addressing them and combating them here in India. It is driven by high prices, it is facilitated by weak governance and low capacity… We have to deal with the capacity, we have to deal with the governance and we have to deal with how to disrupt these criminal networks,” said Dr. Lieberman while highlighting WCS’ strategy of assisting government partners through intelligence-led enforcement, employing tools from criminology, and transcontinental capacity building to dismantle organised wildlife trafficking syndicates. She further highlighted the links between disease, especially COVID 19 and live wildlife markets, stressing that closure of wildlife markets was critical to global public health safety.

Ms. Tilotama Varma, Additional Director, WCCB, spoke about the issue of wildlife trade in India and emphasised that the demand for wildlife in India comes from various parts across the globe, including southeast Asia, China, Europe and beyond. Talking about the work done by WCS-India and its collaboration with WCCB, Ms. Varma stressed upon the importance of partnership between enforcement agencies, NGOs and other organisations working against wildlife trafficking.

“At WCCB, our task is to work towards mitigating illegal trade in wildlife. However, until we come together and work in partnership with each other, we will not be in a position to stop this crime. WCS-India has been working in this area and has been helping enforcement agencies in various ways. They have collaborated with WCCB and have done a number of training programs for officers from various enforcement agencies. So far, 1,176 enforcement agency officials have been trained and soon they will soon come up with an app which will help in species identification and much more, on the go,” said Ms. Varma, adding that WCCB’s capacity building programme has trained as many as 21,000 officers from various enforcement agencies in the span of three years.

Dr. Saket Badola, Head, TRAFFIC India, listed some species like sharks and sea cucumber, which are not consumed on a large scale in India, yet India is a big contributor to the trade in these species. Talking about virtual wildlife trade markets, Mr. Badola said, “Cybercrime is a big threat to wildlife today. Physical markets are converting into virtual ones and so, we are working in collaboration with various internet companies to put an end to it. The transport sector is yet another factor contributing towards wildlife trade. India needs to be aware of the blind spots and should look at the issue of being a demand country,” said Mr. Badola.

Mr. H. C. Chaudhary, Chief Wildlife Warden, Meghalaya, too stressed upon the importance of collaborative work, while acknowledging the role of capacity building in dismantling organised wildlife trafficking networks. He spoke about two recent cases involving geckos, capacity building workshops on counter wildlife trafficking. One of the cases involved a tokay gecko seizure that resulted in the arrest of six persons, with connections to suspected smugglers in Nagaland, Assam and Meghalaya, indicating that the accused were part of an organised smuggling gang. Meghalaya Forest Department has recently arrested 38 persons for illegal wildlife hunting and trade; however only three persons have been sentenced, the rest have been fined for the offences, stated Mr. Chaudhary. “We need to build our capacity to undertake proper and scientific action. With the help of WCS and WCCB, we are building the capacity of our staff at range forest officer and divisional forest officer level. Because of these two trainings only, we were able to catch these persons involved in smuggling and poaching of these tokay geckos.”

Dr. Sameer Sinha, additional PCCF, Wildlife, Uttarakhand, spoke about various challenges that the state faces in combating wildlife trafficking and measures being taken to ensure better conservation. “Uttarakhand has difficult terrain and thus patrolling becomes a huge challenge. We want to focus on the unglamorous part of conservation, that is, prevention. We are also working towards capacity building through training and specialised skills with support from organisations like WCCB and WCS-India,” said Mr. Sinha, adding that technology is also paving the way to break the network of organised criminals.

Bankim Sarma, DFO, Assam Forest Department, spoke about status of Rhinos in Assam. “The strategy is to enhance protection of rhinos in the state. The number of rhinos in the state has gone up to 2650. Rhino population has improved in the state and poaching cases have gone down. Frontline staff is being empowered by the government of Assam and we are also working with the police departments and organisation like WCCB and getting good results,” said Mr. Sharma.


20th February, 2020 (Day 6)

WCS team on the 6th day of CMS-CoP 13 at Gandhinagar, Gujarat. [From left] Aristo Mendis (WCS-I), Ramya Roopa (WCS-I), Avik Banerjee (WCS-I), Arnaud Goessens (WCS-EU), Dr. Susan Lieberman, (WCS), Luke Warwick (WCS), Aditi Rajan (WCS-I) and Alfred DeGemmis (WCS)

CMS-CoP recommends the inclusion of the Great Indian Bustards in the Appendix I of CMS


WCS supports the inclusion of Jaguar in the Appendix I and II of CMS


WCS-India side event at CMS-COP 13 – Navigating troubled waters: Conserving India’s vast marine spaces.


WCS-India, The Corbett Foundation & Eurasian Bustard Alliance Side Event – The Final Flight: Conserving Eurasia’s Iconic Bustard Species at CMS-CoP 13


WCS-India and Turtle Survival Alliance India Side Event – Transboundary Conservation of Threatened Freshwater Fauna at CMS-CoP 13


21st February, 2020 (Day 7)

School Kids at the WCS-India Exhibition at the CMS-CoP 13


22nd February, 2020 (Day 8)

WCS-India and Corbett Foundation organised an event at the CMS-CoP 13 India Pavilion titled Bringing Bustards back from the Brink. Dr. G V Reddy, PCCF and HoFF, Rajasthan, Devesh Gadhavi, Deputy Director, The Corbett Foundation spoke about GIB conservation in Gujarat and Rajasthan respectively. Prakriti Srivastava, Country Director, WCS-India and N K Vasu, GIB Project Leader, WCS-India also gave their insights on the current status of bustard conservation in Rajasthan, the threats they face and discussed the need for multi-agency efforts in going forward with the conservation of this unique species.


Dr. G V Reddy addressing the audience

Mr. Devesh Gadhavi taking about bustard conservation efforts in Gujarat

(From Left) Paromita Ray (WCS-I), Avik Banerjee (WCS-I), Manish Machaiah (WCS-I) Prakriti Srivastava (WCS-I), Anil Kumar (WCS-I), Dr. G V Reddy (PCCF, HoFF, Rajasthan), Dr. Anup Nayak (Member Secretary, NTCA), B M Parasharya (Retd. Poff.) & N K Vasu (WCS-I)


A successful end to the CMS-COP 13. We look forward to enhanced concerted efforts for the conservation of migratory species.

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