Migrating towards survival

Cheetahs, sharks, the Irrawaddy Dolphin, and the West African Manatee are just some of the 22 migratory species that will benefit from conservation proposals that were adopted at the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).


All countries party to the CMS met in Rome for the ninth meeting of the Conference of Parties. Scientists and about 300 representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations came together to discuss urgent conservation responses to address the rapid decline of migratory animal species across the globe. 

"Migratory species create some of the most impressive wildlife spectacles," says Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Head of the IUCN Species Programme. "They also play a key role in maintaining a balanced environment as well as supporting local livelihoods and economies. In our current world of rapid change, migratory species may seem to have an ability to adapt but in fact they are facing a range of threats.

"The threats include habitat destruction, particularly at stopping sites, excessive hunting or fishing, marine noises, wind turbines, diseases such avian influenza and increasingly by climate change. As they range through a number of countries, their conservation cannot be achieved by countries in isolation. CMS helps building this much needed international cooperation.”

The Convention on Migratory Species added the Cheetah, with the exception of the populations in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia, to its list of migratory species in danger of extinction, known as Appendix I. This will provide increased protection in about 80 percent of the countries it migrates across.

The Egyptian Vulture, the Irrawaddy and Black Sea Bottlenose dolphins, the West African Manatee and the Atlantic Humpback Dolphin were all added to the list of migratory species in danger of extinction.

The Mediterranean population of the Bottlenose Dolphin, the Risso’s Dolphin, the West African population of the Clymene Dolphin and the North West African population of the Harbour Porpoise were given Appendix II listing.

The entire populations of the Longfin and Shortfin Mako Sharks and the Porbeagle, and the northern hemisphere population of the Spiny Dogfish have been listed on Appendix II. The African Wild Dog gained Appendix II listing, requiring nations to establish regional agreements for its protection.

In addition, discussions continued on the reduction of bycatch and resolutions were passed to reduce noise pollution from vessels in specific habitat regions for whales, dolphins and other marine species. Climate change and the impacts it has on migratory species will be a focus of attention moving forward.

Through its science and expertise, the IUCN Special Survival Commission has been advising CMS in a variety of ways.

The African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) has prepared an Action Plan for the conservation of West African elephant populations that was adopted by CMS. AfESG has been coordinating the implementation of the African Elephant Memorandum of Understanding for the last years.

The Shark Specialist Group has been a key advisor to CMS and prepared a special report on the conservation status of migratory sharks. It is also heavily involved in the discussion about the proposed Shark agreement.

The Primate Specialist Group prepared two actions plans for gorillas that are being adopted by the New Gorilla Agreement. The Veterinary Specialist Group took an active role in the CMS/FAO Avian Influenza Task Force.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ remains a key information tool for CMS. The Red List information compiled by the Cetacean Specialist Group and BirdLife International has been of particular value to the CMS. The use of the IUCN Red List Index by the Convention is also being discussed.

At the meeting, IUCN highlighted work that has been completed over the last months that could be of direct relevance to the Convention for the development of conservation actions:

The assessment of all mammal species of the world and the development of a Red List Index for this group which includes a number of migratory species, could be of use to the CMS, as could the assessment of the susceptibility to climate change of 17,000 species including all birds.

The CoP was preceded by the first meeting of the Parties to the newly signed Gorilla Agreement and was followed by a meeting discussing the design of a global instrument to protect migratory sharks.

IUCN was represented at the CMS Cop9 by experts from the Shark, Primate and African Elephant Specialist Groups as well as the Secretariat.


The Convention on Migratory Species is an international environmental convention dedicated to the protection of avian, aquatic and terrestrial animals, which migrate across political borders. Countries which have become parties to he Agreement commit themselves to implementing measures to conserve migratory animals and the habitats on which they depend.

For more information, please contact:
Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Head, IUCN Species Programme, Tel : +41 22 999 0152, jean-christophe.vie@iucn.org


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