The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) was founded in 1983 to help protect many animals that are facing endangerment and extinction, and the group is backed by the United Nations and includes more than 120 countries. Every few years, animals are added to the list that become protected by the UN, and the latest additions include some very notable species.


Giraffes, chimpanzees, lions and even many different species of sharks were added to the list, with more than 30 animals added overall. These species are identified as migratory because they tend not to stick around in one place, moving from area to area that includes crossing over international borders. This is why the CMS has deemed it important to make sure that all of the countries are working together to protect these animals. “If the species is moving around all of these countries, everybody has to pitch in,” Bradnee Chambers of CMS said.


Particular animals such as lions and chimpanzees carried a big focus because of dropping population numbers and loss of their natural habitat. Theresa Mundita Lim of the Biodiversity Management Bureau in the Philippines said that these animals “play a critical role in our planet’s ecosystem. They act as pollinators, control pests and are a source of food and income.”

The new measures say that killing of these animals becomes illegal on an international level, though not all countries are involved. Their newest additions to the list are the most that have been put together in one meeting, and more people attended the latest meeting than ever before. While not all animals made the no-kill list, those without high priority still are protected by the group’s appendix II that hopes for increased conservation efforts. This is the group in which lions, giraffes and leopards fall into.


Other animals that were a bit more surprising include 10 different species of vultures, and a number of sharks that include the blue shark and whale shark. KerriLynn Miller is a shark conservation expert, and she said that “In some regions, the newly protected shark species have experienced population declines of 50 percent or more.” Blue sharks were particularly at risk before the sanctions due to overfishing.

“They’re the most highly fished sharks in the world,” Matt Collis of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said. “With 20 million caught around the world each year, but they’re also the most migratory, so they’re vulnerable to fisheries everywhere. This puts pressure on countries to commit to international protection.” These sharks can often be spotted swimming around African countries such as Madagascar, but will now be protected.

To make sure that the countries that have signed onto this pact are actually following through, one of the new guidelines will also come with compliance reviews. There aren’t harsh punishments for governments that are caught not following the protections, but conservationist Max Bello says “It does work. It needs more (authority) for sure, but you can use it. It’s actually a very good tool…A year or two ago, I was helping some group in Peru in the coast of the South Pacific and we used CMS to convince the government of Peru to protect the giant mantas that come from Ecuador every year.”


One region in particular that the CMS is hoping to get on board is Asia. Currently, many of the Asian countries are missing from the list, and China is the most notable of the group. “We’re trying to work to bring China onboard as a member of the convention,” Bradnee Chambers said. “We have been engaging them and they are actually doing quite a bit.” One positive step is getting China to ban shark fin soup, which Chambers said required “positive engagement within the country to see how to find solutions instead of just bashing the country and looking at the negative side.”


The United States, Canada and Russia are also surprising absences from the list. Susan Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society says that “We strongly encourage the countries that are not currently parties to CMS, including several world powers with large areas of terrestrial and marine habitat for wild migratory animals, to join the convention.”

She added that “We can only achieve our conservation and sustainable development objectives through close collaboration on transboundary issues, and we look forward to supporting the international community on these efforts moving forward.” In North America, there are more than 1,200 endangered animals, including the California Condor and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle that can migrate from Mexico to the United States and vice versa.