Peregrine falcon down-listing an opportune time to reflect on CITES convention

Written by Adrian Lombard on 23 September 2016 in Thought Leader
Thought Leader

The Peregrine falcon's down-listing is an opportune time to reflect on the CITES convention, writes Adrian Lombard.

Adrian Lombard | Photo credit: IAF

At the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Conference of the Parties in Johannesburg (CITES COP17), Canada, with the support of the International Association for Falconry (IAF) will propose the down-listing of the Peregrine falcon from Appendix I to II in response to a dramatic improvement in the species' conservation status. 

The Proposal, supported by major international conservation NGOs, clearly shows that Appendix I criteria under CITES are no longer met, thus an Appendix II listing is more appropriate under the species' current biological and international trade status. I believe this celebrates a very significant conservation success.

Falconry and the Peregrine falcon are almost synonymous having a history of over 2000 years of sustainable use. This relationship between man and falcon relied on wild-taken birds which could be released after use. This use ended abruptly with the collapse of Peregrine populations in the 1950s. The immediate response was to assume that unsustainable illegal trade was the cause. 


In time, organochlorine pesticides, principally DDT, were identified as the culprits. Conservation pressure resulted in the removal of these products from general use, paving the way for recovery of this species and the many others severely affected by a toxic environment.

Fears of unsustainable trade resulted in the Peregrine being listed in the CITES Appendix I. The essential requirement for restoration, however, was recognition of the real causes and a clean environment. A global effort ensued to re-establish this iconic species.

The 1965 Madison Conference in Wisconsin resulted in the use of captive breeding as a restoration tool, while North American falconers established

The Peregrine Fund which pioneered captive breeding releasing thousands of birds across that continent. All over the world, falconer-led projects contributed to the Peregrine's restoration including breed-and-release, artificial nesting sites, rehabilitation and public education.

There are now probably more Peregrines than ever before. The downlisting call would recognise this considerable success following 60 years of effort. As falconers, we support this proposal as recognition of that success but would not seek increased trade in wild birds.

Such trade could be prevented by national legislation while access to a carefully controlled harvest of wild birds for personal use and to increment breeding stock may be reasonable in some countries. 

For this purpose, CITES encourages countries to undertake Non Detrimental Findings (NDFs) prior to any international trade of CITES listed species.

Reflection on this conservation success is essential. Where trade is not the conservation issue, then up-listing at CITES is not appropriate. CITES' merit as a conservation tool and its role in restricting trade is undoubted. 

The wisdom of the Parties in the use of CITES as a fi ne tool to effect conservation success or as a blunt instrument to bludgeon the use of natural resources will be critical to future conservation and the success of this Convention.


About the author

Adrian Lombard is President of the International Association for Falconry (IAF)

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