At the January/February conventions some people, including hunting operators, did not know that the CITES Standing Committee had suspended all trade in hippopotamus from Mozambique and Cameroon in September 2012 until those countries demonstrate that the level of trade is sustainable. Hunters have been calling Conservation Force asking for an explanation of why their hippo trophies are not being shipped. The Law Enforcement Division of USFWS is reported to have walked the floor of the SCI Convention in Reno notifying hunting operators that were advertising hippo hunts. Many were surprised.
A system to review the level of trade of Appendix II species (species threatened or that may become threatened by trade) to ensure it is sustainable (not biologically detrimental to the survival of a trading country’s population of the species) has evolved within the CITES system. It is called the Significant Trade Review Process (SIG). The objective is to keep Appendix II species from becoming Appendix I species. Appendix I species are those endangered by trade. Normally Appendix II species are those that are threatened or may become threatened if trade is not adequately controlled. Appendix II also includes lookalike species that are listed to protect another species that is listed on Appendix I. The hippo was originally listed on Appendix II not because of its status but because its tusks may become a substitute for Appendix I elephant ivory.
Several years ago, Cameroon and Mozambique were sent a written inquiry by the CITES Secretariat at the recommendation of the Animals Committee (AC) that had selected the species for SIG review. The two countries did not respond adequately. After warnings, last March the Animals Committee recommended suspension of Cameroon and Mozambique’s hippo trade, and in July the Standing Committee (SC) acted on that AC recommendation through the Secretariat that issued the two Notices of suspension of trade on September 25, 2012. We attended both the AC and SC meetings and reported on the developments to “insiders” but did not have space to report it here.
Member states of CITES like the United States will refuse the imports until the countries satisfy the Secretariat of CITES that the trade is not detrimental/it is sustainable. The Secretariat will then issue a notice of withdrawal of the suspension and trade will resume. We fully expected that to have already occurred, but it has not.
The resumed trade normally permits trophies already taken before or after the suspension period. That means hunters who have taken hippo before or during the noticed suspension should be able to import their hippo trophies when the respective exporting country satisfies the Secretariat that is implementing the suspension. This can occur in a couple of months but has not occurred yet. Both countries were issued warning notices before the suspension. They must now document that their hippo quota is sustainable before trade resumes.
Cameroon was supposed to reply to the Secretariat by January 4, 2012 (more than a year ago), but had not filed a response when the Standing Committee met in July 2012. (See SC62 Doc. 27.1 (Rev.1) and issued Notice No. 2012/059 September 25, 2012 on CITES website at www.cites.org/eng/notif/valid.php
Mozambique had filed a report from a 2008 National Survey of all of its species, which was not adequate without further explanation. According to the September notice issued by the Secretariat, more information is needed …including details of methodologies employed; and…[j]ustification for, and details of, the scientific basis by which it has been established that the quantities of H. amphibious (hippo) exported were not detrimental to the survival of the species and in compliance with Article IV, paragraphs 2(a) and 3.
In July 2012, Mozambique had made “no response” to this inquiry while the CITES trade database showed that Mozambique exported specimens of hippo in 2009 and 2010, including 204 teeth and 151 trophies that warranted the significant trade review. Of course, that CITES trade data itself may be incorrect, as is often the case. Single teeth have been misunderstood to be full trophies in the past. The Mozambique CITES Management Authority needs to respond. Until it does, it may not be prudent for hunters to take hippo in either country.