The Scientific Authority

What we do

The main functions of the Scientific Authority are to:

  • Monitor the legal and illegal trade in specimens of TOPS species (species listed as threatened or protected in terms of section 56 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) of 2004) and CITES species (species included in the Appendices to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora);
  • Make recommendations to an issuing authority on applications for permits to undertake restricted activities with TOPS species;
  • Make non-detriment findings (NDFs) on the impact of international trade on the survival of TOPS and CITES species;
  • Advise on the registration of ranching operations, nurseries, captive breeding operations and other facilities;
  • Advise whether an operation or facility meets the criteria for producing species considered to be bred in captivity or artificially propagated; 
  • Advise on amendments to TOPS listings and prohibition of restricted activities;
  • Advise on the nomenclature of species in trade; and
  • Assist with identifying species in trade.

Where we work

The Scientific Authority is active nationally in all nine provinces of South Africa, and is also represented on delegations to international meetings such as the CITES Plants and Animals Committees and the Conference of Parties to CITES.

Reason for our programme

The Scientific Authority has been established in terms of Section 60 of the NEMBA. The purpose of the Scientific Authority is to assist with regulating and restricting trade in specimens of TOPS- and CITES-listed species. This is achieved through a scientific and professional review of available information and consultation with stakeholders when necessary.

What we have achieved

To date 14 meetings of the Scientific Authority have been convened, the last of which was held in Cape Town on 18-19 September 2017. A special meeting of the Scientific Authority was also held in July 2016 in preparation for the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17), which was hosted by South Africa from 24 September to 5 October 2016. The following issues are currently on the agenda of the Scientific Authority:

  • Captive breeding of white rhino
  • Biodiversity implications of captive/intensive breeding
  • Export quota for lion bone
  • Hunting of lion
  • A proposed CITES Appendix III listing for abalone
  • CITES registrations of African grey parrot breeding facilities
  • Tortoise trade and poaching
  • NDF for export of rhino horn

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Who we are

The members of the Scientific Authority include one representative from each of the nine provincial conservation authorities of South Africa, together with representatives from the Department of Environmental Affairs, SANBI, SANParks, and the National Zoological Gardens.

SANBI is responsible for the logistical and administrative functions of the Scientific Authority, and also plays a scientific co-ordination role.

How to contact us

The Scientific Authority can be contacted through the Scientific Co-ordinator, Michèle Pfab.

Last updated on 25 October 2017
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