Summary report, 13–16 May 2002

12th Meeting of the CITES Plants Committee

The 12th meeting of the Plants Committee (PC-12) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) convened from 13-16 May 2002, in Leiden, the Netherlands. The meeting drew together nearly 70 participants from States, and international, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Participants met in Plenary all day on Monday and Tuesday, 13-14 May, and on Thursday, 16 May, into the evening to complete all of their agenda items, which included consideration of the following: follow-up of decisions taken at the 11th Conference of Parties (COP-11); technical and species proposals for COP-12; significant trade in plants; medicinal plants; review of the Appendices; checklists and nomenclature; strategic planning; and evaluation of certification schemes. An excursion was offered on Wednesday, 15 May, to view the flower exchange in Amsterdam, as well as several plant propagation nurseries.

With an atmosphere of genial camaraderie and a minimal amount of divisive politics and controversy, the Plants Committee finished its meeting a day earlier than scheduled. Numerous issues under consideration, including de-listing of artificially propagated orchid hybrids and potential future listings, such as Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum), will be forwarded to COP-12.


During the 1960s, countries became increasingly aware that over-exploitation of wildlife through international trade was contributing to the rapid decline of many plant and animal species. In 1963, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) began drafting an international convention to regulate the export, transit and import of rare or threatened wildlife species. International commitment to establish a convention began in June 1972 at the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, which recommended the immediate preparation of an international convention to deal with these issues. The same year, IUCN, the US and Kenya produced a working paper, which became the basis for convention negotiations. The final negotiations were held from 12 February to 2 March 1973, in Washington, DC. CITES was adopted on 2 March 1973, and entered into force on 1 July 1975. There are currently 158 Parties to the Convention.

The Convention's conservation goals are to: monitor and stop commercial international trade in endangered species; maintain species under international commercial exploitation; and assist countries toward sustainable use of species through international trade. CITES Parties regulate wildlife trade through controls and regulations on species listed in three Appendices. Appendix I lists species endangered due to international trade. Their exchange is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Species listed in Appendix II are subject to strictly regulated trade based on: quotas and/or permits to prevent their unsustainable use; and controls to maintain ecosystems and prevent species from becoming eligible for Appendix I. Appendix III species are subject to regulation by a Party who requires the cooperation of other Parties to control international trade. To list a species, a Party provides a proposal containing scientific and biological data on population and trade trends for Conference of the Parties (COP) approval. The proposal must be supported by a two-thirds majority of Parties present and voting at a COP. CITES only lists species whose populations are obviously impacted by international trade. At present, there are approximately 5,000 fauna species and 25,000 flora species covered by CITES. As the trade impact on a species increases or decreases, the COP decides – based on technical input from the Plants and Animals Committees – whether or not the species should be shifted between or removed from Appendices.

CITES also regulates international trade through a system of permits and certificates that are required before specimens enter or leave a country. Each Party must adopt national legislation to provide official designation of a Management Authority responsible for issuing these permits and certificates based on the advice of a designated Scientific Authority. Parties maintain trade records that are forwarded to the CITES Secretariat annually, the sum of which enables it to compile statistical information on the world volume of trade in Appendix species. The national Scientific and Management Authorities also enhance CITES enforcement through cooperation with customs, police or appropriate agencies.

The operational bodies of CITES include its Standing Committee, as well as several scientific advisory committees: the Animals Committee; the Plants Committee; and their subcommittees, the Nomenclature Committee and the Identification Manual Committee. Located in Geneva, the CITES Secretariat interprets Convention provisions and assists CITES Parties and Committees.

ELEVENTH MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES (COP-11) TO CITES: COP-11 convened from 10-20 April 2000, at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Delegates considered 62 proposals to amend Appendices I and II as well as over 40 resolutions on a wide range of topics, including: the evolution of the Convention; financial matters; conservation of and trade in tigers, elephants, rhinoceros and Tibetan Antelopes; and trade in bears, tortoises and freshwater turtles, seahorses and medicinal medicines.

SECOND JOINT MEETING OF THE ANIMALS AND PLANTS COMMITTEES: This meeting convened from 7-9 December 2000, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA, to, inter alia, discuss proposals by the Criteria Working Group on amendments to Resolution Conf. 9.24, criteria for amendment of Appendices I and II.

SIXTEENTH MEETING OF THE ANIMALS COMMITTEE: This meeting convened from 11-15 December 2000, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA. The Committee addressed, inter alia: transport of live animals; trade in hard corals; traditional medicines; captive breeding and ranching; conservation of seahorses; labelling of caviar; status of sharks; trade in sturgeon, cobra and musk deer; review of animal taxa in Appendices; and time-sensitive research samples.

TENTH MEETING OF THE PLANTS COMMITTEE: The Plants Committee met in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA, from 11-15 December 2000. The Committee addressed: follow-up of COP-11 decisions; technical and species proposals for COP-12, such as the definition of "artificially propagated," standard exemptions for derivatives of plant species and definitions of technical terms used in annotations for medicinal plants; significant trade in plants; medicinal plants; review of Appendices; and checklists and nomenclature.

SEVENTEENTH MEETING OF THE ANIMALS COMMITTEE: This meeting was held from 30 July to 3 August 2001, in Hanoi, Vietnam. Participants addressed: definition of the term "critically endangered in the wild;" control of captive breeding, ranching and wild harvest production systems for Appendix II species; trade in freshwater turtles and tortoises; sturgeons; and review of animal taxa.

ELEVENTH MEETING OF THE PLANTS COMMITTEE: The Plants Committee met in Langkawi, Malaysia, from 3-7 September 2001. Participants to the meeting considered: follow-up to COP-11 decisions, such as those regarding agarwood; species and technical proposals for COP-12, such as harvesting of Galanthus; medicinal plants; guidelines for transport in live plants; tree species evaluation; and trade in Mexican cacti.

FIRST MAHOGANY (SWIETENIA) WORKING GROUP MEETING: This meeting was held in 3-5 October 2001, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Delegates to the meeting heard reports from TRAFFIC and representatives of member States and concluded that some range States listing the species – particularly Bolivia, Brazil and Peru – had made considerable progress in the implementation of the Appendix III listing. However, evidence presented at the meeting made it clear that illegal trade occurs, although its extent differs from country to country.

REGIONAL DEVIL’S CLAW (HARPAGOPHYTUM) CONFERENCE: Held in Windhoek, Namibia, on 28 February 2002, this meeting prepared a common statement on actions needed regarding Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum spp.), including recognition of the importance of the contribution of Devil’s Claw to the health sector and to sustainable development in range States.

46TH MEETING OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE: The Standing Committee met in Geneva, Switzerland, from 12-15 March 2002, and considered a number of items, such as: financing for species conservation; implementation of existing resolutions; Convention implementation in individual countries; late or non-submission of annual reports; and preparations for COP-12, to be held in Santiago, Chile from 3-15 November 2002.

EIGHTEENTH MEETING OF THE ANIMALS COMMITTEE: From 8-12 April 2002, in San José, Costa Rica, the Animals Committee considered a number of items, including: implementation and review of Resolution Conf. 8.9 (Rev.) on significant trade reviews; periodic review of animal taxa; registering and monitoring operations breeding Appendix I species for commercial purposes; trade in traditional medicines; transport of live animals; trade in hard corals; caviar labeling; trade in Black Sea bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus ponticus); control of captive breeding, ranching and wild harvest production systems; trade in tortoises and freshwater turtles in Southeast Asia; seahorses (Syngnathidae); sharks; sturgeons; and trade in alien species.


Participants of the 12th meeting of the CITES Plants Committee met Monday morning, 13 May, at Leiden University and the Leiden Botanic Garden to officially open the meeting. Geke Faber, Dutch Secretary of State for the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, welcomed participants on behalf of the Dutch government. She noted that: nearly 60% of world trade in flowers and plants passes through the Netherlands; trade in cultivated specimens takes pressure off wild populations; and CITES can play an important role in forest protection. She stressed that there are benefits to be gained from cooperation between the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and CITES, highlighting the new working programme on forests that came out of the CBD’s Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP).

D. D. Breimer, rector magnificus of Leiden University, expressed respect for the work of the Plants Committee, to which the staff of the Leiden Botanic Garden will be contributing.

Welcoming participants, Plants Committee Chair Margarita Clemente (Spain) expressed gratitude to the Netherlands for hosting the meeting and to all those who helped with preparations and organization. She noted the host country is well known for its horticultural industry and trade in propagated plants and praised university and government collaboration on CITES.

Following the introductory remarks, delegates adopted the Rules of Procedure (PC12/Doc. 2), Agenda (PC12/Doc. 3.1) and Working Programme (PC12/Doc. 3.2). The Secretariat introduced the Admission of Observers (PC12/Doc. 4), including 14 intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, which was adopted.

This report of the 12th meeting of the CITES Plants Committee is organized based on the official meeting agenda. In some cases, agenda items were postponed for consideration later in the meeting to allow time for regional groups to meet and for Parties to prepare presentations.


Regional reports (PC12/Doc. 5.1 – 5.6) and regional directories (PC12/Doc. 6.1 – 6.6) were jointly discussed on Thursday, 16 May.

AFRICA: The two representatives for Africa compiled the documents (PC12/Doc. 5.1 and 6.1). One representative acknowledged that no regional meetings had been convened, but a regional workshop on Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum) was held in Namibia in February 2002. He highlighted the creation of a national park in Tanzania to protect orchids from excessive trade, stating that it was the first area in tropical Africa set aside primarily to protect plants. It was suggested, and the Chair agreed, that a letter of congratulations be sent to Tanzania for establishing the park. Africa also announced that Kenya has established a system for exchanging scientific material of CITES-listed species between registered scientific institutions, and that it has allocated a budget to undertake a non-detriment finding for the harvesting of pygeum (Prunus africana).

ASIA: Two Asian representatives introduced the reports (PC12/ Doc. 5.2a and b and 6.2). The representative for East Asia noted that no regional meetings had been convened, and announced that a subregional meeting for ten Southeast Asian nations would be held in July 2002 in Malaysia to discuss CITES issues. He also said the group had been trying to control imports and exports of the Indonesian hardwood, ramin. The representative for West Asia reported that he had experienced difficulties communicating with Parties in the region.

CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN: Central and South America and the Caribbean presented the report (PC12/Doc. 5.3), stating that the regional directory (PC12/Doc. 6.3) was available in paper and CD-ROM formats, and that 30 of the 32 regional Parties had responded. He expressed satisfaction with the results of the process, which had opened up communication channels among the countries. He highlighted a course on CITES for police officers in Colombia.

EUROPE: Europe outlined the documents (PC12/Doc. 5.4 and 6.4), noting that a regional meeting was held in Turkey in April 2002, and that the regional directory is available on the University of Cordoba’s website. He highlighted Europe’s financial contribution to the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) database, which is available through the CITES website.

NORTH AMERICA: In its report (PC12/Doc. 5.5 and 6.5), North America discussed a regional meeting held in Mexico in April 2002, and emphasized the need to raise awareness among growers about the advantages of having plants on Appendix II.

OCEANIA: Oceania highlighted two points from the report (PC12/Doc. 5.6 and 6.6): the successful capacity-building workshop held in Fiji in April 2002; and problems encountered in the region since tree ferns were de-listed. He clarified that domestic regulations require that tree ferns be individually tagged and permitted, although CITES permits are no longer necessary. He also expressed his wish to see the Solomon Islands join CITES.


On Monday, 13 May, Chair Clemente introduced the report of the Standing Committee, stressing the need to further discuss the criteria for Appendices amendments to allow time to reach consensus. Mexico added that all comments made on this issue over the years should be taken into consideration.

STRATEGIC PLANNING: Chair Clemente noted a series of minor changes made to the implementation of the strategic plan (PC12/Doc. 7.3), which was adopted at the 46th meeting of the Standing Committee in Geneva in March 2002. A working group was formed to discuss how to move forward on the plan’s objectives and action points, including, inter alia, the need to: assist in the development of appropriate domestic legislation; ensure that the Convention’s Appendices reflect the conservation and management needs of species; promote cooperation among national, regional and international law enforcement agencies; and strengthen communication and collaboration with national and international NGOs.

Plants Committee Vice-Chair Bertrand von Arx (North America) presented the action points directed to the Plants Committee (PC12/ Doc. 15) taken from the Plants Committee’s terms of reference and from the strategic plan. He noted that actions were prioritized and should be re-evaluated periodically for highest possible efficiency. Chair Clemente stressed the need to develop indicators since the strategic plan is constantly changing and actions are completed.


The strategic plan working group met on Wednesday, 15 May, and identified the following high priority actions: significant trade review; review of the Appendices; and review of heavily traded non-CITES species. They also agreed that each of the topics would be examined to identify precise activities and establish necessary funding and timeframes, as well as to create indicators. It was suggested that the working group further address these issues through e-mail consultation. On Thursday, 16 May, North America introduced the working group’s revised action points (PC12/Doc. 15 (Rev.1)). World Conservation Trust – Switzerland (IWMC-CH) said that the Plants and Animals Committees do not have the mandate to deal with non-CITES species unless the COP decides it is necessary. The Chair said that there is an action within the strategic plan for the Plants Committee to evaluate the biological and trade status of non-listed species to determine if they would be qualified for listing on CITES Appendices.


HARPAGOPHYTUM SPP.: On Tuesday, 14 May, Domitilla Raimondo, National Botanical Institute, South Africa, presented on the status of trade and management of Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum spp.), perennial creeping herbs found in southern Africa. She said these savannah grassland plants have been traditionally harvested, mainly in communal areas, and are used to treat arthritis, rheumatism and other ailments. She reported that Namibia is currently the main exporter, with 92% of trade, while Botswana has 5% and South Africa has 3% of trade. She added that Namibia and Botswana oppose an Appendix II listing because of the income local people derive from trade, although Botswana believes an Appendix III listing could help with gathering trade figures. She stated that South Africa will follow the recommendations of Namibia and Botswana.

Berit Hachfeld, Institute of Botany, University of Hamburg, Germany, presented her research in Namibia and South Africa on the occurrence and density of Harpagophytum procumbens, used in medicinal trade. She said that Harpagophytum is restricted to sandy habitats in savannah ecosystems with 150-500mm rainfall, but is not evenly distributed throughout its range in southern Africa. Noting that Harpagophytum tends to occur in overgrazed areas with low grass coverage, she stressed it is necessary to research surrounding vegetation and land use systems when considering Harpagophytum issues.

Africa introduced a common statement made by participants at the Regional Devil’s Claw Conference (PC12/Doc. 8.1.1), held in Windhoek, Namibia, on 28 February 2002. He said that the conference highlighted stakeholder and regional collaboration as necessary for sustainable development and trade of Devil’s Claw. He noted that some participants expressed opposition to a potential CITES listing as it could decrease trade and have negative impacts on poor, rural communities.

During discussion, the UK and others noted that CITES has a public relations problem in southern Africa, but an Appendix III listing of Harpagophytum could be beneficial to range States. Oceania emphasized the need for more monitoring. Germany stressed links with importers and traders to overcome lack of trade information (PC12/Doc. 8.1.2). The Secretariat added that monitoring is more important than intensive ecological research and that CITES can play an important role in addressing non-CITES-listed species. He added that there is a need to further develop documentation explaining the role of an Appendix III listing. IWMC-CH said a species listing could be interpreted as leading to prohibition and suggested that the Plants Committee recommend export quotas at COP-12.

Chair Clemente suggested that the next Plants Committee meeting be held in southern Africa to try and change some of the negative views held about CITES and CITES listings.

On Thursday, 16 May, Africa introduced a draft report on Harpagophytum (PC12/WG Harpagophytum). It was recommended that, inter alia, range States provide an update on the trade and biological status of Harpagophytum spp., and species could be listed on Appendix III if enough information was provided to range States. The Plants Committee supported the recommendations, which will be included in the Chair’s report to COP-12.

GUAIACUM SPP.: On Monday, 13 May, Mexico responded to a document (PC12/Doc. 8.2) prepared by TRAFFIC North America on the status of lignum vitae or tree of life (Guaiacum) research in Mexico, stating that further work is needed on Guaiacum coulteri and on non-detriment findings. He added there will be discussions with the US Forest Service regarding funding for this project.

Outlining their proposal regarding inclusion of Guaiacum spp. on Appendix II, Germany said that both G. sanctum and G. coulteri are traded, but that the species are indistinguishable except by highly sophisticated methods. In order to address "look-alike" issues, he suggested that all species of Guaiacum be listed on Appendix II to curb trade in those that are endangered. Mexico, one of the range States, with TRAFFIC International, and Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Central and South America and the Caribbean, supported the German proposal. IWMC-CH said there should be information on all species of Guaiacum. Africa questioned the need to have information on all look-alike species if they are to be listed anyway, to which the Secretariat responded that Resolution Conf. 9.24 addresses this issue and that non-detriment findings must be made.

The CITES Secretariat suggested other options might be to undertake a significant trade review of the species or ask range States about what other measures they can take to prevent unsustainable trade in species, such as implementing quotas. IWMC-CH inquired about the use of annotations for the listing of Guaiacum spp. Oceania asked if there were any intentions to research possible methods for distinguishing between naturally or plantation-grown trees. The Secretariat responded that solutions are needed that are not necessarily high-tech and that can be enforced by customs agencies around the world. North America expressed concern about fulfilling the requirements of Decision 11.114 (regarding Guaiacum spp.). The Secretariat said that the Plants Committee could report to the COP that it did not fulfill the designated tasks, which could remain on future meeting agendas. Participants agreed to forward the German proposal to COP-12.

AQUILARIA SPP.: On Thursday, 16 May, Barbara Gravendeel, Leiden University, presented on a CITES-funded study to develop species-specific DNA markers in agarwood (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, and that only one species of Aquilaria is on Appendix II. 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.

Europe inquired about 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 inquired about identification of species based on gaharu’s phytochemical characteristics. Oceania asked if there is trade information on other gaharu-producing genera.

TRAFFIC introduced a 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 agarwood trade. He added that Aquilaria could be a good candidate for the significant trade review process. Several delegates said an Appendix III listing could be appropriate. 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.

MAHOGANY (SWIETENIA) WORKING GROUP: On Tuesday, 14 May, the Secretariat highlighted the outcome of the working group, which met in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, from 3-5 October 2001. The meeting addressed national reports from range States, as well as a report from TRAFFIC, and agreed that an Appendix III listing was a positive move to regulate trade. He said a final report is being prepared and would be sent to COP-12.


DEFINITIONS OF THE TECHNICAL TERMS USED IN THE ANNOTATIONS: Since the working group Chair was not present at the meeting to present the document on standardizing annotations on medicinal plants (PC12/Doc. 9.1), on Thursday, 16 May, discussion of this matter was postponed to a future meeting.

TRADE IN SEEDS: On Tuesday, 14 May, the US introduced a document on trade in seeds (PC12/Doc. 9.2), questioning the application of Resolution Conf. 11.11 (Regulation of trade in plants), in particular, the definition of artificially propagated specimens grown from wild-collected seeds of Appendix II species. He suggested that because the parental stocks are kept in the wild, the specimens are not artificially propagated. The Secretariat responded (PC12/Doc. 9.2.1) that a plant is determined to be artificially propagated if it is grown under controlled conditions, regardless of whether it is from wild-collected or artificially propagated seeds. The US referenced a decision regarding animals bred in captivity to illustrate his point regarding artificially propagated plant species, and suggested that possible solutions might be adding a definition of "artificially propagated" for plants derived from wild-collected seeds or other material, or designating such plants as being "cultivated." IWMC-CH said different definitions of the same term should not be created, and that artificially propagated plants cannot be compared with animals bred in captivity.

The Secretariat advised: discussing the matter informally with interested Parties; forwarding the issue to COP-12, as necessary; and undertaking a general re-writing of unclear resolutions on plants. The UK suggested that simple implementation instructions and case studies would assist in clarifying resolutions. The Committee agreed to include clarification and revision of the resolutions in the work plan.


ARTIFICIALLY PROPAGATED ORCHID HYBRIDS: The US presented a document (PC12/Doc. 10.1) on Tuesday, 14 May, resulting from efforts of a working group at COP-11 on the proposed exemption of artificially propagated orchid hybrids of the genera Cattleya, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis and Vanda. He said that, as these orchids are mass-produced "manufactured plants," there is no impact on wild species, although there is concern about enforcement issues. He added that the vast majority of traded orchids are artificially propagated.

During discussion, several participants agreed on the need to find a way to remove the "ballast" of having hybrids on Appendices as it burdens Management and Scientific Authorities and detracts attention from wild species. Participants raised the issue of large container shipments, suggesting more thorough identification of merchandise, country-of-origin Management Authority certification of hybrids, and verification of uniformity of container contents. Parties and regional groups, including Europe, Oceania, North America and Asia, supported the US in pursuing the proposal for presentation at COP-12.

CACTACEAE: On Tuesday, 14 May, Switzerland proposed deleting from Appendix II all Cactaceae species of subfamily Opuntioideae and all species of leaf-bearing cacti, sub-family Pereskioideae (genus Pereskiopsis and Quiabentia), based on lack of international trade and ease of species identification. These proposals (PC11/Doc. 10.1.1) were originally presented at the 11th meeting of the Plants Committee. The Secretariat notified Parties in March 2002 of Switzerland’s intention to consult with range States on this issue. Discussion by range States focused on lack of adequate trade data and objections to de-listing. Mexico urged a precautionary approach, and noted its document on updated taxonomy of Opuntia (PC12/Doc. 14.2). He announced that Mexico will host a meeting on Opuntia on 30 May 2002, and invited Switzerland to withdraw its proposal. Austria questioned whether enforcement agents could identify the two proposed groups and distinguish them from other cacti. The US said they may have difficulty supporting Switzerland’s proposal, noting that 50-75% of cacti seizures in the US from 1998-2000 were Opuntia. The Secretariat and Chair urged Parties to submit feedback on Switzerland’s proposal. As recommended by participants, Switzerland intends to revise the proposal based on discussions and input from range States and submit it for consideration at COP-12.

ARAUCARIA ARAUCANA: On Tuesday, 14 May, Chair Clemente inquired about the status of Argentina’s monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) proposal. The Secretariat said that the postal vote had failed due to lack of a quorum and that the issue will be forwarded for COP-12 consideration. The vote was called because of the Philippines’ rejection of the proposal. The Chair added that although IUCN and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said there were no data showing the occurrence of Araucaria in the Philippines, it was still the country’s right to reject any such proposal for whatever reason. Nevertheless, there were calls to support Argentina’s proposal to list remaining Araucaria on Appendix I. IWMC-CH said Argentina needs to decide if it will forward a new proposal so that Parties have time to provide the Secretariat with additional comments. Chile urged Parties and observers to make comments on this subject and to support Argentina.


PROBLEMS AND INCONSISTENCIES IN RESOLUTION CONF. 8.9 (REV.) AND DECISION 11.117: This topic was discussed in a working group and in Plenary on Tuesday, 14 May, and Thursday, 16 May. Bertrand von Arx, working group Chair, reported on the outcomes of discussions to clarify and simplify the significant trade review process for Appendix II flora (PC12/Doc. 11.1 (Rev.1) Annex 3). Delegates agreed to several minor changes to the text, as well as the need to define recommendation deadlines to facilitate implementation. The Secretariat said an explanation of additional text was needed on the application of adaptive management procedures for the formulation of recommendations and their transmission to range States. On Thursday, 16 May, North America introduced the revised text (PC12/Doc. 11.1 (Rev.2)), and the Plants Committee approved the document, as amended.

IMPLEMENTATION OF RESOLUTION CONF. 8.9 (REV.): Trade in Plants from Madagascar: On Tuesday, 14 May, the UK, coordinator of the Madagascar significant trade review process (PC12/ Doc. 11.2.1), said that they have been examining trade data and investigating what is available in nurseries and over the Internet, which is to be given to the Madagascar Management Authorities. He said the next stage is to convene a workshop in Madagascar, but due to the domestic political situation, it has been impossible. The Secretariat added that they have been unable to send a CITES Mission to Madagascar, and are awaiting a statement from the Madagascar Mission to the United Nations in order to implement a six-month trade moratorium announced by Madagascar at the 18th meeting of the Animals Committee in April 2002.

Cycads: The Secretariat announced on Tuesday, 14 May, that funding for the study on cycads was largely consumed by the Madagascar significant trade review project, and that commencement of the study was pending the instatement of the new Senior Scientific Officer (Flora) at the Secretariat. He expressed hope that the process would begin by the end of 2002.

Selection of Taxa for Review: The Secretariat explained on Tuesday, 14 May, that a list of species of concern was prepared by a working group at the 11th meeting of the Plants Committee in September 2001. Since then, the Secretariat has examined trade data and prepared suggestions regarding what species might be candidates for significant trade review (PC12/Doc. 11.2.3). Referring to the list of species, Africa pointed out that the reference to Aloe ellenbeckii was misreported, and that the reported volume of 70,000 tons was of concern. He added that certain species had been omitted from the list. The UK urged that a study be conducted on global trade of teak (Pericopsis)Mexico asked for clarification regarding the criteria by which species were deemed to be of concern. The European Commission said that it might be possible to use their contract with UNEP-WCMC to carry out the work on this task. He also said that no decision had been taken yet to fund projects for 2003 and it was not their practice to solicit funding proposals. Noting the lack of funding for reviews, the Secretariat advised that the number of species examined under the significant trade review process be limited in order to ensure quality results in terms of improving long-term management in range States. He said external funds could be sought to overcome resource constraints.

On Thursday, 16 May, the UK, Chair of the working group on selection of species for the significant trade review process reported on the group’s work conducted Tuesday evening, 14 May. In an effort to keep the list for review short, the group decided on the following species: Prunus africana, AquilariaPericopsis elata, and Aloe from eastern Africa. Chair Clemente asked for details regarding how much time and funding the review of these species would require, which the Chair said he would provide.


The issues under this agenda item were discussed on Tuesday, 14 May.

INVENTORY OF MEDICINAL ARTIFICIAL PROPAGATION OPERATIONS: The Secretariat gave a presentation about implementation of COP-11 Decision 11.165 to inventory operations that artificially propagate species for medicinal purposes (PC12/Doc. 12.1.1). He stressed the enormous amount of work that this entails and requested the Plants Committee to help the Secretariat identify the conservation benefits of this inventory process. He reported that this issue was discussed with the Standing Committee, which agreed it is a low priority since its purpose is unclear. Alternatively, he said the Committee could consider recommending to COP-12 that Management Authorities initiate a national-level inventory of operations in their own countries. Austria supported this proposal and suggested working with the CBD’s Global Biodiversity Information Facility, which may already have gathered relevant information. The EU recalled that UNEP-WCMC data was often speculative about whether species were exploited specifically for medicine or whether the medicinal use was a by-product of other use. The Chair concluded that the Secretariat would prepare a document for COP-12 based on the discussion, and urged that further COP decisions consider the resources needed to complete recommended work.

LIST OF SPECIES TRADED FOR MEDICINAL PURPOSES: The Secretariat said this element (PC12/Doc. 12.1.2) of COP-11 Decision 11.165 is a considerable challenge, and depends on how "medicinal purposes" is defined and whether a species is internationally traded specifically for medicinal purposes. He added that this issue is not a high priority. Several participants supported the Secretariat’s concern over resources necessary to undertake this task and questioned the original objectives of the Decision, urging that future COP agreements are feasible and have defined objectives. The Chair suggested the Secretariat note for COP-12 the challenges of this decision.

Italy introduced an information document (PC12/Doc. 12.1.3) on trade of medicinal plants growing in Italy as part of the implementation of Decision 11.165.


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 submit a proposal to downlist Aloe polyphylla, but not in time for COP-12. Switzerland described problems with tracking Appendix I-listed costus (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 requested. The US highlighted potential proposals for consideration at COP-12, such as downlisting liveforever (Dudleya traskiae) from Appendix I to Appendix II.


Issues under this agenda item were completed on Thursday, 16 May.

PROGRESS REPORT: The UK, Vice-Chair of the Nomenclature Committee, gave a status report (PC12/Doc. 14.1) of the Committee’s 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 orchid database, and Switzerland and Mexico reported on publications on cacti nomenclature. Austria and Germany supported updating the spurge (Euphorbia) checklist as a priority task.

UPDATED TAXONOMICAL LIST OF OPUNTIA AND SEGREGATES: Mexico presented its 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 of tree ferns (PC12/Doc. 14.3). Since the list will be used by enforcement authorities, Oceania requested that species distributions be listed at the country, not subregional or geographical, level.


PROGRESS REPORT: On Thursday, 16 May, the Secretariat presented the progress report on the Identification Manual for Appendix-listed species (PC12/Doc. 16.1), explaining that a detailed report on the Manual will be presented at COP-12. North America announced that Canada had recently published identification sheets for Canadian timber, and that copies could be sent to interested Parties. The US said it had sent a CD-ROM to the Secretariat on various species of, among other genera, agave (Agavaceae).

IDENTIFICATION OF APPENDIX I CACTI: On Thursday, 16 May, Switzerland presented 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.


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.


The Netherlands explained that they had undertaken an evaluation of tree species using new CITES listing criteria two years ago, and since then, had only received comments from four countries. He said his intent had been to revise the evaluation based on comments, but because they have not been forthcoming, he was unsure of how to proceed. UNEP-WCMC reminded delegates that the evaluation had been translated into Spanish and French, and that they could resend copies if necessary. Austria emphasized the utility of the evaluation for Scientific Authorities and universities, and suggested that Parties confirm the local names of trees. Participants discussed how to proceed and address the unresponsiveness of countries. The Committee agreed that this topic would be considered in the next work period. The Netherlands said it would prepare a report for COP-12 indicating the evaluation status.


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 a large number of 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.


Issues under this agenda item were discussed on Thursday, 16 May.

REVIEW ON THE GENUS TAXUS: The US presented the review on the yew genus Taxus (PC12/Doc. 20.1 and Rev. 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, are 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 orchidsHe 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 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 its request for information on the issue of ex situ production and in situ conservation, asking for positive case studies. 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, supported including a request examples of plants that are produced ex situ and conserved in situ. IUCN highlighted their recent workshop on related issues (PC12/ Doc. 20.3 Annex 2).


STANDARD SLIDE PACKAGE: On Thursday, 16 May, the UK presented a progress report on the standard slide package (PC12/Doc. 21.1). He said that the updated information pack is ready to post on the Internet as a PowerPoint presentation that can be downloaded. The package, which also includes a CD-ROM, will be presented at COP-12. He said an information pack on succulents will be prepared in June 2002 and a pack for orchids is the next project.


Mexico introduced its completed study (PC12/Doc. 22) documenting suppliers of cacti sold on the Internet. She said the study focused on species occurring in Mexico and the US. The Association of German Nurserymen questioned, inter alia, whether the study investigated the level of demand. Mexico responded that some of the factors raised are included in their database.


On Thursday, 16 May, North America noted the possibility of using additional organized source codes for CITES plant production systems (PC12/Doc. 23.1). The Secretariat said the project needs additional time and it is important for Scientific and Management Authorities to make non-detriment findings. Asia raised the issue of plantations, noting that many seeds of tropical timber species have a short viability and are therefore collected from the ground after germination, questioning how this approach would be classified. IWMC-CH urged that Scientific and Management Authorities not be expected to put additional codes on certificates. The Secretariat commended the Plants Committee on their objectivity in considering the source code issue and suggested its consideration at a future 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.


Chair Clemente discussed the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation adopted at CBD COP-6, highlighting the Strategy’s Objective 11, which states that no wild plant species may be placed in danger through international trade. She said that the Strategy will be mentioned in the Chair’s report to promote synergy between the CBD and CITES.

PROGRESS REPORT OF THE CITES MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY OF CHINA IN PLANT PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT IN 2001: China introduced the progress report of the CITES Management Authority of China (PC12/Doc. 25.1), explaining that it had been sent to the Secretariat and other Parties to inform them of China’s work in plant protection and management in 2001.


On behalf of the Committee, Africa recalled 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 the Netherlands for hosting the meeting and participants for their contributions, re-emphasizing that she would include all of the Committee’s input into her Chair’s report to COP-12. The meeting came to a close at 7:30 pm, a day earlier than scheduled.


Famous for its tulips and other popular flora, the Netherlands was a most appropriate location for CITES annual Plants Committee meeting. Somewhat smaller and more intimate than its Animals counterpart, the Plants Committee discussed the ongoing significant trade review and the review of several non-CITES traded species. There was also a review of the Appendices in order to ensure that listed taxa satisfy the relevant criteria. Although the Plants Committee is an advisory scientific body established to provide technical support on species-related decisions, the outcomes and recommendations of the meeting will not be fully realized until the politicians and diplomats take up these issues at COP-12 later this year in Santiago, Chile.

With an atmosphere of genial camaraderie and a minimal amount of divisive politics and controversy, the Plants Committee finished its meeting a day earlier than scheduled, having successfully addressed issues such as revision of Resolution Conf. 8.9 (Rev.) on significant trade reviews, artificially propagated orchid hybrids, trade in seeds, and forestry certification schemes. This analysis of PC-12 will discuss the key issues that emerged during the meeting, specifically, listing and de-listing of species, CITES’ public relations issues, and preparations for COP-12.


While there often appears to be an urgency to get animal species listed on one of CITES’ three Appendices, the 12th meeting of the CITES Plants Committee actually concentrated its efforts on de-listing certain species. With more than 25,000 plant species currently listed on Appendices, compared with 5,000 for animals, delegates agreed that there is a real need to simplify and revise the listings in order to focus on the species most affected by trade. The Orchidaceae family was one of the more highly publicized listings singled out in the review, due to management and enforcement difficulties associated with its unwieldy number of species and hybrids. Delegates widely agreed to exclude, through a specific annotation in the Appendices, certain genera of artificially propagated orchid hybrids, which make up some 95% of the trade and have been found to have no impact on threatened wild populations. It was generally believed that the removal of such specimens from CITES controls would significantly reduce the workload of permit-issuing authorities so that they can concentrate their efforts on endangered orchids and other plants requiring closer monitoring. In the words of one delegate, an annotation to the current Appendices is both pragmatic and realistic, and is the first step to an eventual de-listing. Species of cacti (Cactaceae) are also under consideration for de-listing. Other species are sure to follow the trend once the Plants Committee finds the time to review them.


The trend to de-list was by no means exclusive. There were still calls to list several species, such as Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum spp.), as more data on biological and trade status has become available. Most delegates agreed that an Appendix III listing for many proposed species would be an advantage in achieving sustainable use as it would give both countries of export and import a potential tool to eliminate illegal trade. There was also renewed talk of listing timber species.

Although there is a handful of timber species listed since the earlier years of the Convention, the issue has been avoided in recent years, in a strikingly similar manner to the Animals Committee’s avoidance of discussing the possible listing of fish species. Plants Committee delegates expressed difficulty in dealing with the timber issue because of the major implications it could have on trade. One timber-exporting country, in particular, worried that any Appendix listing could have adverse effects on its industry and economy. Others noted the lack of forestry expertise at the Plants Committee to properly address the issue, as well as conflicting timber certification schemes that currently exist in other international fora. Although the issue might have been side-stepped for the moment, there are those who believe it is inevitable that timber species will eventually be part of the Plants Committee process.


Not all Parties see an Appendix listing as a means to achieve the sustainable use of plants. Several participants reported that there are those – particularly, poor, rural communities in range States where many of the plants species are found and harvested – who are suspicious of CITES and believe that any listing would have a negative impact on their livelihoods. Such perceptions are not unfounded and appear to be due to a lack of understanding of how CITES works and its intentions to try and control – but not prohibit – international trade in rare or threatened species.

Delegates highlighted the need to start improving CITES’ image by involving all stakeholders, industries and traders in the process. There was also a call for the Secretariat to improve capacity building for Scientific and Management Authorities, as well as to provide information on the implications of Appendix listings. For example, discussions revealed that clarification is needed on the benefits to be gained from listing a species on Appendix III. Monitoring of trade required from an Appendix III listing, and the support of importing and exporting countries, can assist range States in enforcing domestic trade regulations.

In order to demonstrate CITES' commitment to improving public relations, Chair Clemente suggested holding the next Plants Committee meeting in one of the Harpagophytum range States — Namibia, South Africa or Botswana — a move strongly endorsed by all participants.


The Plants Committee has come a long way over the years: it was not too long ago that these meetings consisted of only a handful of delegates, with their deliberations and decisions largely unnoticed. Here in Leiden, the participation of nearly 70 delegates from over 25 countries and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations was testament to the growing importance of a scientific body with the technical expertise to provide the COP with relevant scientific data and guidance. Regional cooperation is strong and NGO participation, although small in number, contributes greatly to the documents and recommendations produced. However, even the best available science may not be enough to see a proposal through the political elements of the process, nor ultimately protect the future of a threatened species. The inevitable infusion of politics at the COP is likely to continue to dominate the way Parties move forward in implementing the Convention. Nonetheless, the successful outcomes of any initiatives to emerge from the COP can be attributed to the hard work and dedication of both the Plants and Animals Committees.


SCIENCE FOR PLANT CONSERVATION – AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR BOTANIC GARDENS: This meeting will be held at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, from 8-10 July 2002, and aims to bring together conservation scientists from the world’s botanic gardens and academia to share methods and results to advance plant conservation. For more information, contact: Mary Foody, Trinity College; tel: +353-1-6081274; fax: +353-1-6081147; e-mail:; Internet:

BIONET INTERNATIONAL’S THIRD GLOBAL TAXONOMY WORKSHOP – PARTNERSHIPS FOR BUILDING DEMAND-DRIVEN TAXONOMIC CAPACITY: This meeting will be held in Pretoria, South Africa, from 8-12 July 2002. The goal of the workshop is to build a global network of partners dedicated to providing sustainable, locally owned, cost-effective and priority-driven responses to overcoming the taxonomic impediments to sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. For more information, contact: Bionet International; tel: +44-1491-829036; fax: +44-1491-829082; e-mail:; Internet:

CITES ASIA REGIONAL MEETING: This meeting will take place in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, from 12-14 August 2002. For more information, contact: CITES Secretariat; tel: +41-22-917-8139; fax: +41-22-797-3417; e-mail:; Internet:

TRAINING WORKSHOP FOR CITES SCIENTIFIC AUTHORITIES OF CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN: This meeting will take place in Nicaragua in September 2002 (dates to be determined). For more information, contact: CITES Secretariat; tel: +41-22-917-8139; fax: +41-22-797-3417; e-mail:; Internet:

12TH MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES TO CITES: CITES COP-12 will convene from 3-15 November 2002, in Santiago, Chile. For more information, contact: CITES Secretariat; tel: +41-22-917-8139; fax: +41-22-797-3417; e-mail:; Internet: and

Further information