BREAKING: CITES votes to protect Malawi tree species

Mulanje Cedar

The Conference of the Parties for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) has today voted to include two of Malawi’s threatened tree species under its protections.

The Mulanje Cedar (widdringtonia whytei) and African Mukluk (pterocarpus tinctorius) will be included in Appendix II of CITES’ trade controls. Species listed in Appendix II are granted protection that prohibits trade that is ‘incompatible with their survival’.

This move will add additional legal safeguards to both species which, it is hoped, will slow the decline in population of these trees.

The decision was made at the 18th meeting of the Conference of Parties which is currently taking in Geneva. Rulings to add new species to CITES’ appendices are made through a vote of all attending delegates.

CITES is an international agreement between governments which aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Both species have seen a rapid decrease in wild populations due to  illegal logging, human-induced forest fires, and invasive competing tree species.

The Mulanje Cedar, which is Malawi’s national tree, is rated as ‘critically endangered’ by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

African Padauk, Mukluk

Commenting on the CITES’ vote, Jonny Vaughan, CEO of Lilongwe Wildlife Trust said: “”Lilongwe Wildlife Trust is delighted with the decision by CITES to grant these two species the added protection they need. Both species face the real threat of extinction in the wild due to over-harvesting and illegal logging motivated by national and international trade. We now hope that this move will allow these trees the chance to recover and flourish once more in Malawi. We pass our congratulations to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the Department of Forestry for having both of their protection proposals accepted by the Conference of the Parties.”


More about the tree proposals

CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected threatened species to certain controls. The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival. Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. At each CITES meeting Parties submit proposals to amend the Appendices. Those amendment proposals are discussed and then submitted to a vote.

Widdringtonia whytei (Mulanje cedar)

This species is considered to be “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species after years of overexploitation from unsustainable and illegal logging combined with human-induced changes to the fire regime, invasive competing tree species, aphid infestation, and low rates of regeneration or recruitment. As of 2018, population surveys did not find a single standing, reproductively mature tree on the Mulanje Mountain. Small plantation areas have been established in other areas of Malawi and a major effort is underway to replant the cedar on Mount Mulanje, but until such efforts have resulted in the renewal and stabilisation of the population, any trade, international or national, in its timber should be considered a threat to the survival of the species.

Pterocarpus tinctorius (African padauk, mukluk)

Pterocarpus tinctorius is a rosewood species native to a range of habitats across east and southern Africa. The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in harvest and export from several countries, both legal and illegal, following a by-now familiar pattern directly linked to Asian demand. Available information indicate that the illegal and unsustainable exploitation of Pterocarpus tinctorius has already had severe reported impacts on its wild populations in various range States. Unless rapidly checked, the growing unsustainable and illegal exploitation of Pterocarpus tinctorius for international trade is likely to lead the commercial extinction of the species in various range States.