On Saturday supporters of the GMFER were urging the 183 Parties signatory to the CITES treaty to vote for the strictest possible protection of endangered species by listing all species of elephant and rhinos on CITES Appendix 1.

Sandton, Johannesburg – Hundreds of marchers gathered for the annual Global March for Rhinos and Elephants (GMFER) in Johannesburg on Saturday to show their support for the protection of South Africa’s endangered species. The march coincided with the launch of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) reported Taryn Arnott van Jaarsveld.

“By marching to the conference, we are hoping to keep pressure on political leaders to protect the world’s most vulnerable species” said Dex Kotze, GMFER core strategist.

Supporters of the GMFER were urging the 183 Parties signatory to the CITES treaty to vote for the strictest possible protection of endangered species by listing all species of elephant and rhinos on CITES Appendix 1.

“Appendix 1 gives these species the highest level of protection in international law,” said GMFER president Rosemary Alles, addressing supporters at the march. “Like all social justice issues, the solution to the problem of poaching and wildlife trafficking will not be resolved in boardrooms and conference halls. It will be resolved by the collective goodness of our human community.”

The GMFER is calling upon delegates to vote against trade in ivory and rhino horn. “Killing the demand for both Ivory and rhino horn is the key to their absolution,” said Kotze. GMFER is also calling for a total ban on pangolin trade and on canned lion hunting.

“We will send a message that will not be ignored. Our heritage will not be stolen from us. This is why we march,” said 17-year-old Rhino SA ambassador Kirsten Anne Everett, addressing the crowd gathered for the march. “It is my generation that has everything at stake. It is our future jobs that could be thrown away by decisions made in the next fortnight. It is our inheritance that could be destroyed by greed. We cannot allow this to happen.”

Another 147 cities around the world, including Hong Kong, New York and Paris, are also participating in the GMFER campaign. Marches in Hoedspruit, Cape Town, Durban and East London, amongst others, also expressed their support for the cause.

The movement is supported by Humane Society International, Captured in Africa Foundation, Blood Lions, Nkombe Rhino, Rhino Africa, Rhino SA, Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching, Save our Rhinos and the Conservation Action Trust, among others.

All eyes are on South Africa this week as delegates gather to debate and vote at the 17th major meeting of the world’s wildlife trade regulating treaty.

The conference, opened by President Jacob Zuma on Saturday is taking place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg until 5 October. The treaty aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. South Africa became a signatory to CITES in 1975.

Elephant poaching, threats to rosewood species and sharks, and illegal trade in rhino horn and pangolin will be high on the agenda.