In a bit of welcome good news for conservationists, CITES announced they are downlisting the Cape Mountain Zebra because of the dramatic increase in numbers in recent years.
Specifically, CITES just downlisted the Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra zebra) from Appendix I to Appendix II. This means that, though the population still faces some threats, their numbers have recovered enough to need less protection, and permits for international trade of the zebras will be easier to obtain.
The entire population of Cape Mountain Zebra lives in South Africa, and this news could potentially open up hunting for the species in the future. The Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, which lives in Namibia and is a relative to the Cape Mountain Zebra, is also currently listed under Appendix II of CITES. The Namibian government has authorized well-regulated, sustainable hunting for the species, which is continuing to increase.
Taking a page from Namibia's book, South Africa argued that by downlisting the Cape Mountain Zebra, the economic value of the species would increase, providing an incentive to landowners to grow habitats for the zebras. This development would then help increase the zebra population in the future.
Biologists estimate the Cape Mountain Zebra population to be approximately 4,800 strong. Though this is a relatively small number, it is a dramatic increase from less than 200 in the early 1900s. Their population is currently growing at around 9% a year.
According to Theressa Frantz, head of environmental programmes with WWF South Africa:
The recovery of species like the Cape mountain zebra shows that CITES can work and that populations can bounce back thanks to trade regulations and conservation efforts. If the world takes decisive action in Johannesburg, we look forward to more success stories in the future.
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