No paper, no plastic and no polythene – this is why the “biggest-ever” international conference to be held in Sri Lanka next year will be doubly unusual and unique. The nearly two-week conference from May 23-June 3 which hopes to attract high-level delegations from 183 countries including Sri Lanka is CITES-CoP18. This Conference of Parties [...]


Sri Lanka gears for huge wildlife powwow

Unusual and unique will be ‘green’ CITES-CoP18 in May-June next year

No paper, no plastic and no polythene – this is why the “biggest-ever” international conference to be held in Sri Lanka next year will be doubly unusual and unique.

Dr. Sevvandi Jayakody

The nearly two-week conference from May 23-June 3 which hopes to attract high-level delegations from 183 countries including Sri Lanka is CITES-CoP18.

This Conference of Parties (CoP) on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora is held once every three years, with the last being in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016.

A green, plastic-free conference with minimal paper use is what the CITES CoP18 Sri Lankan Secretariat now in action at the BMICH, is aiming for. The Sri Lankan Secretariat’s Coordinator is Dr. Sevvandi Jayakody and the Director of Biodiversity and Cultural Events is Samantha Gunasekara.

Another first will be the calculation of carbon emission from the conference, with a request to the Forest Department to allocate land to them to grow a ‘CITES Forest’ to offset that impact, the Sunday Times learns.

“We will not be distributing any plastic bottles of water at the conference. There will be glass decanters with clean drinking water,” said Dr. Jayakody.

Even at the media briefing held on Tuesday at the BMICH, no paper handouts were given, with advice that information could be accessed online, while water was in glass decanters.

The briefing was chaired by Buddha Sasana Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera who will oversee the holding of CoP18 along with ministry Secretary Chandraprema Gamage and local CITES head, C. Maliyadde, as it was during Mr. Perera’s tenure as Wildlife Minister that Sri Lanka secured the honour of holding the conference, it is learnt.

The other vital stakeholders include the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Law and Order, Sustainable Development and Wildlife, Environment and Tourism.

Samantha Gunasekara

Explaining that nearly 4,000 delegates, officials, international and national non-governmental organisations and media will converge on Colombo for this world’s largest wildlife conference, Mr. Gunasekara said that at CoP18, India and Sri Lanka together are hoping to present a proposal to change the status of the Indian star tortoise (a threatened species), from Appendix II to Appendix 1.

Reiterating that holding CoP18 in Sri Lanka will help strengthen the country’s efforts to control the legitimate cross boundary movement of flora and fauna, Mr. Gunasekara said that the country should know the population size, export size/exploitation level of a species prior to issuing an export permit. Such data are vital in conservation.

“When we consider the exportation of wild-caught endemic freshwater fish species, it is an extremely detrimental trade for Sri Lanka. If CITES listed, this type of trade can be controlled,” he said, also focusing on Sri Lankan Agamids (lizards) in the German market. “This is a good example of our species being in the global market,” he said.

Giving a glimpse of what the ‘CITES Arena’ which will be the BMICH premises will look like next year in May, Mr. Gunasekara said that the surrounding areas will be a hub of national activity including cultural events, entertainment and food stalls. It is a great opportunity for Sri Lanka to attract more investors and tourists.

There will be art installations, competitions, street drama, mascot designs and national product markets around the conference venue. This ‘big’ UN conference will be a once-in-our lifetime event, he said, adding that it will only be the second time that it is being held in South Asia, after India in 1981 and the second time on an island after Japan in 1992.

Appreciating the support being extended by the Megapolis Ministry, the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), Dr. Jayakody explained that it was a great opportunity for all Sri Lankans, from little children to youth, to academics and researchers, to the elderly, to interact with experts from across the globe.

She called on all sectors to assist them in any way they could be it in kind, cash, technology, skills etc.

What is CITES

CITES or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is an international agreement between governments, which aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The Secretariat of CITES is located in Geneva, Switzerland.

Today, CITES accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants.

CITES is an international agreement to which states and regional economic integration organisations adhere voluntarily. So far, there are 183 ‘parties’ to CITES, with Sri Lanka joining in 1979. It is among the conservation agreements with the largest membership.

States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention (‘joined’ CITES) are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – they have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws. It provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.

Appendices I, II and III to the Convention are lists of species afforded different levels of protection from over-exploitation.


  •  Appendix 1 — Lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants. They are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, for instance for scientific research. In these exceptional cases, trade may take place provided it is authorized by the granting of both an import permit and an export permit (or re-export certificate). 
  •  Appendix II — Lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so, unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes so-called “look-alike species”, i.e. species whose specimens in trade look like those of species listed for conservation reasons. International trade in specimens of Appendix-II species may be authorised by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate. No import permit is necessary for these species under CITES. 
  •  Appendix III – Lists species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation. International trade in specimens of species listed in this is allowed only on presentation of the appropriate permits or certificates. 

Species may be added to or removed from Appendix I and II or moved between them, only by the CoP. But species may be added to or removed from Appendix III at any time and by any Party unilaterally.



The winning logo

Picking up the logo, Mr. Samantha Gunasekara said that a national level open competition was conducted to design it, with a competitor from Ampara, A.L.C. Dhanushka, winning it.

In the logo, the five petals of Caralluma umbellate, symbolises floral species in trade and also represent the five continents. The circle within is Earth. The tag line urges the world’s communities to be vigilant and proactive. The blue of the five petals represents water and the brown and green shades within the globe, represent the earth colours.

The species included in the logo are:

  •  Asian elephant: With theAsian elephant being killed for its tusks and hair and in the human elephant conflict, it has been included to encourage both Asian and African countries to give due protection to the elephant. 
  •  Indian pangolin: Asintense trade pressures are resulting in the decimation of pangolin species, it has been included to symbolise international cooperation and unity in listing this species in CITES. 
  •  Thresher shark: Symbolising the mega marine species in trade, it alsorepresents the shark proposal submitted by Sri Lanka, along with unprecedented global support, for listing at CoP17. This shark is part of a group of globally-threatened marine species and highlights the dedication of Sri Lanka in ensuring that all international trade of sharks and rays is maintained at sustainable levels. 
  •  Crimson rose butterfly: As butterflies are traded indiscriminately, this is a reminder that insects are vulnerable due to trade and should be protected with due measures. It symbolises the avian species in trade. 
  •  Hump-nosed lizard: Representing tetrapod reptiles in trade because they are sold as pets or forconsumption, it has been included in the logo to indicate that indiscriminate collection can lead to extinction. It is among the Sri Lankan proposals for CoP18, with hopes of mobilising greater protection for reptiles. 
  •  Green pit viper: Endemicto Sri Lanka, it heads the list of snakes caught from the wild and traded internationally as pets, which can lead to the extinction of this threatened species. It represents the serpentine reptilia in trade. 
  •  Vanda orchid and five petals: Thishas been included as Sri Lanka is home to over 200 species of orchids and supports their conservation and habitat protection. 
  •  Sea horse: Another species in Asia that is exported through several illegal trade routes, sea horses represent the lesser known marine taxa in CITES trade.

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