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Twelfth Meeting of the Plants Committee

13 to 17 May 2002 in Leiden, the Netherlands


Summary Report


Aquilaria spp.: On Thursday, 16 May, Barbara Gravendeel, Leiden University, presented on a CITES-funded study conducted to develop species-specific DNA markers in Aquilaria (PC12/Inf. 1). Describing the basic characteristics of the 15 Aquilaria species, she explained that the wood can be infected by a fungus that produces a resin (gaharu) used in rituals, medicines and perfume. She said gaharu is highly priced and global demand is higher than available supply. She noted that because gaharu-containing wood is usually traded as dry samples, it cannot be identified at the species level. She stated that there are few species- and region-specific mutations in Aquilaria, and that further work is necessary to isolate DNA in wood samples and to develop an easy-to-apply test for customs officials.

 Listen to Barbara Gravendeel's presentation
In the subsequent discussion, Europe asked the time required to develop the test. Gravendeel responded that six months are needed if fresh samples are available, although there are difficulties when working with old or contaminated wood. Mexico enquired about identification of species based on gaharu's phytochemical characteristics. Oceania asked if there is trade information on other gaharu-producing genera.

 Listen to agarwood discussion
TRAFFIC introduced an information document on agarwood (PC12/Doc. 8.3), noting the increasing importance of DNA testing in distinguishing species. He identified several recommendations, including, inter alia, the need for ground-truthing of populations in agarwood harvesting areas, and further field research on gaharu trade dynamics. Oceania emphasized the need for a reporting mechanism and links with traders to understand the total trade in agarwood. He added that Aquilaria could be a good candidate for the significant trade review process. The Secretariat said the main advantage of an Appendix III listing is that the countries of export and import may eliminate the illegal trade. Central and South America and the Caribbean called for further taxonomic efforts to assess the species. The Committee agreed to support the recommendations made by TRAFFIC, and the Chair will include the comments in her report to COP-12.

 Listen to the TRAFFIC presentation

 Listen to a discussion on the presentation
ISSUES RESULTING FROM PC-11: This agenda item was discussed on Thursday, 16 May.
Review on the genus Taxus: The US presented the review of the genus Taxus (PC12/Doc. 20.1), noting that the Plants Committee should examine the trade in all Taxus species to determine if additional species should be included in an Appendix listing. Italy added a document on its review on the genus Taxus (PC12/Doc. 20.1.1), supporting a CITES listing. China also supported an Appendix II listing, adding that chemical derivatives would have to be addressed as the main problem of Taxus trade. Hungary, with Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Poland, raised concerns about listing the whole Taxus genus, noting technical difficulties in countries where particular species, such as Taxus baccata, was common and not threatened. She added that protection could be solved through national legislation. Chair Clemente recommended that the US continue reviewing this issue and consider the comments made by the range States before proposing a listing.

Illegal trade in Paphiopedilum spp.: The US noted a document submitted at PC-11 regarding the problems associated with the illegal trade in Paphiopedilum. He said that the US seized a number of these plants and was considering releasing them into the market to suppress the demand for illegal products. He added that there are commercial propagators in the US who would be willing to assist in reintroducing plants into the wild. The Secretariat said that the issue could be further discussed at the next Plants Committee meeting.

Relationship between ex situ production and in situ conservation: The Secretariat introduced the topic (PC12/Doc. 20.3). He said the Animals Committee had requested the Secretariat to re-issue their request for information on the issue of ex situ production and in situ conservation, asking for positive examples. The Secretariat intends to re-submit the notification to Parties, also seeking flora examples. The Chair, with Mexico, Austria, the US, and Africa, on behalf of the Cycad Specialist Group (CSG), supported including a request for plant examples. The IUCN highlighted their recent workshop on related issues (PC12/Doc. 20.3 Annex 2).

Listen to Mexico discuss the issue

Listen to the Secretariat's comments

REVIEW OF THE APPENDICES: This item was discussed on Thursday, 16 May. Africa announced that southern African countries have been reviewing various Aloe species on the Appendices, and that South Africa will submit a proposal before COP-12 to downlist Aloe thorncroftii from Appendix I to II. He added that Lesotho plans to eventually submit a proposal to downlist Aloe polyphylla. Switzerland described problems with tracking Appendix I-listed Saussurea costus due to repeated transfers between Switzerland and Germany for processing purposes. Germany pointed out that China is the biggest exporter of Saussurea costus, although the range States are India and Pakistan. India said it would prepare a document on this issue if required. The US highlighted potential proposals for consideration at COP-12, such as downlisting Dudleya traskiaei from Appendix I to Appendix II.
Selection of taxa for review: On Thursday, 16 May, the Chair of the working group on selection of species for the significant trade review process reported on their work Tuesday evening, 14 May. In an effort to keep the list for review short, the group decided on the following species: Prunus africana, Aquilaria, Pericopsis alata, and Aloe from eastern Africa. Chair Clemente asked for details regarding how much time and funding the review of these species would require.
Progress report: On Thursday, 16 May, the Vice-Chair of the nomenclature committee gave a status report (PC12/Doc. 14.1) of their work, including the production of several checklists. He added that there were future plans to work with UNEP-WCMC on orchids, and asked for input from range States. Austria reported on completion of efforts to collect data for a Bulbophyllum database, and Switzerland and Mexico reported on publications on cacti nomenclature. Austria and Germany supported updating the Euphorbia checklist as a priority task
Updated taxonomical list of Opuntia and segregates: Mexico presented their updated taxonomical list (PC12/Doc. 14.2). The UK urged Mexico to submit the list for publication before forwarding it to the COP.
List of the American Dicksonia species: Germany presented on a list identifying the American Dicksonia species (PC12/Doc. 14.2). Since the list will be used by enforcement authorities, Oceania requested that species distributions be listed at the country, not sub-regional or geographical, level.

Identification of Appendix I cacti: On Thursday, 16 May, Switzerland presented on an identification manual of Appendix I cacti. Noting that the project took almost three years to complete, he gave a demonstration of the CD-ROM manual. He said that the manual is currently available in English, but will be translated to French and Spanish, and that it has been shipped to the CITES Secretariat for distribution to all Management and Scientific Authorities.

TRANSPORT OF LIVE PLANTS: On Thursday, 16 May, North America presented the guidelines for transport of live plants (PC12/Doc. 17), stating that consultations were conducted with the Chair of the Animals Committee transport working group. He suggested that: CITES cooperate with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to incorporate aspects of IATA transport policy; the Plants Committee use the IATA brochure on handling of perishable goods to produce its own, general information material on all forms of transport; and this information be made available to border control personnel.

Listen to the presentation

EVALUATION OF CERTIFICATION SCHEMES: On Thursday, 16 May, the Secretariat introduced a proposal (PC12/Doc. 19) from TRAFFIC regarding evaluation of certification schemes in forestry and their compatibility with the scientific requirements of making a non-detriment finding. He said the evaluation would be funded by the remaining US$10,000 provided by the US three years ago for Plants Committee projects. The US, with Malaysia and Asia, opposed the proposal, stating that such a study would be premature since only a small proportion of traded timber is covered by certification schemes. The UK suggested that the money be used for significant trade reviews, while Austria pointed out that the CBD has a process underway to address forest certification schemes. Europe said that investigating certification schemes might clarify whether they can be helpful in making non-detriment findings. North America suggested that the evaluation be postponed. IWMC-CH warned that this issue could be very divisive if raised at COP-12. The Committee agreed that the proposal would not be supported, and that the remaining money would be used for significant trade reviews.

Listen to the intervention by Malaysia

TIME AND VENUE OF THE 13TH PLANTS COMMITTEE MEETING: The Chair indicated that Namibia, South Africa and Botswana will be approached as potential hosts of PC-13, which may be held in August 2003.

CLOSING REMARKS: On behalf of the Committee, Africa notified delegates that this was the last meeting at which Ger van Vliet would be attending as CITES Senior Scientific Officer (Flora), and wished him well in his new post as Senior Capacity Building Officer (Training). Chair Clemente echoed Africa's words, adding that collaboration with van Vliet would continue in future meetings. She thanked participants for their contributions, and the Netherlands for hosting the meeting. The meeting came to a close at 7:30 pm, a day earlier than scheduled.

Ger van Vliet

Barbara Gravendeel

Uwe Schippmann, Germany

Harriet Gillett, UNEP-WCMC

Francisco Neira, Chile

Pal Netra Singh, India

Hesiquio Benitez, Mexico

Patricia Davila, Mexico

Jan de Koning, The Netherlands

Noel Mcgough, UK

Karin Berkhoudt, Traffic

Shahrill Shahbudin, Brunei

David Newton, TRAFFIC

Greg Leach, Oceania

Quentin Luke, Kenya, talks with Alison Ormsby, ENB

Mukhshar Zul Shaari, Malaysia

Participants chat over lunch

Enrique Forero, Colombia

Edward Nash, American Orchid Society

Chair Margarita Clemente

Marco Ciambelli, COMURNAT

Mandy Haywood, IUCN

Scenes from the 'Naturalis' (National Museum of Natural History)

The ENB CITES team: Left: Alison Ormsby, David Fernau, Wendy Jackson and Mark Schulman


CITES home page

The Plants Commitee page

Agenda and Documents

Eighteenth Meeting of the Animals Committee

ENB coverage of The eleventh Conference of the Parties (COP-11)

ENB coverage of The Tenth Meeting of the Plants Committee and Sixteenth Meeting of the Animals Committee