CMS COP14 Champion Night Unveils New Champions for Migratory Species

Samarkand, 12 February 2024 - On the margins of CMS COP14, the highly anticipated Champion Night took place to honor new CMS Champions, recognized for their exceptional efforts and commitments to the global fight for conserving migratory species. 

With the special attendance of Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, as a distinguished speaker, the awards were presented in the COP Venue Plenary Hall. The ceremony was followed by a reception hosted by the Government of Uzbekistan. During this special night, nine new Champions were nominated within the Migratory Species Champion Programme for their contributions to initiatives ranging from addressing the illegal killing, taking, and trade of birds to conserving Central Asian mammals, among many others.  

New champions for migratory species are:  
The Government of Uzbekistan has been honored as a Champion for its contribution to securing ecological connectivity for the period 2024-2026. Ecological connectivity is at the forefront of the global environmental and political agenda. As a key component of many goals and targets within the Global Biodiversity Framework, connectivity is essential for the survival of migratory species, as well as for achieving restoration, area-based conservation, and climate change adaptation. This commitment will support the establishment of a new Global Partnership on Ecological Connectivity (GPEC), fostering international collaboration for coordinated conservation efforts and tangible outcomes. The award was received by H.E. Aziz Abdukhakimov, Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of the Republic of Uzbekistan.  

“Nature does not recognise man-made boundaries. Uzbekistan is well aware of this fact due to the devastating effects of the Aral Sea's depletion on humans and wildlife across Central Asia and beyond. By contributing to the CMS Global Partnership on Ecological Connectivity, Uzbekistan participates in a worldwide effort to safeguard migratory species. This collaboration highlights Uzbekistan's belief that nature has the power to bring nations together, and therefore, nations must come together to protect nature”, said the Minister. 

The European Commission has been recognized as Champion Plus for its contribution towards addressing the Illegal Killing, Taking, and Trade of Birds in the Mediterranean for the period 2023-2028. Since its establishment in 2016, this task force has successfully coordinated efforts among governments, Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), NGOs, and other interest groups in their collective fight against the threat posed by the illegal killing, taking, and trade of all migratory bird species using or crossing the Mediterranean basin. Mr. Hans Stielstra, Deputy Head of Unit of DG Environment, accepted the award and remarked:

“As Parties to CMS, we want to do all we can to protect migrating birds. Illegal killing, taking and trade of migratory birds is unfortunately still a major threat to the conservation status of bird populations, in all major flyways. The CMS Task Force on Illegal Killing, Taking and Trade of Migratory Birds in the Mediterranean is doing a great job bringing together governments, stakeholders and international organisations in the Mediterranean and the EU is very happy to support their work.” 

The Government of the Federal Republic of Germany was named Champion Plus for its contribution towards the conservation of Sahelo-Saharan Megafauna for the period 2021-2024. The vast arid environment of the Sahelo-Saharan region is home to many migratory species, occurring within challenging geopolitical landscapes. This contribution, in support of the Sahelo-Saharan megafauna initiative, is crucial in fostering regional cooperation among Parties to save some of the world's most critically endangered ungulates remaining in the wild. 

“We support the conservation work of CMS and the megafauna of the Sahelo-Sahara Region, because this region entails some of Africa’s most critically endangered animals, like the Addax Antelope and the Dorcas Gazelle. For many years now, the range States and CMS have worked to protect these species. And there have been spectacular successes, such as the reintroduction of the Scimitar-horned Oryx in Chad. This species had already died in the wild. Protecting the unique habitats of these species benefits precious ecosystems and biodiversity in the entire region.  We value the tangible conservation work of CMS. The alarming crisis of species and biodiversity loss makes the need for strong multilateral institutions all the more pressing.” 

The Government of India has been awarded Champion Plus for its contribution to the conservation of migratory birds in the Central Asian Flyway. The Central Asian Flyway encompasses at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species, including 29 globally threatened and near-threatened species, which breed, migrate, and winter within the region. This contribution will support the establishment of a new CMS Central Asian Flyway Initiative that aims to enhance cooperation and promote synergies in the region. The award was received by Mr. Jitendra Kumar, Director General of Forests & Special Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Government of India, who said:  

“Creating a uniform platform for capacity building, knowledge sharing, research and coordinating with all range countries for the conservation of migratory birds along the Central Asian flyway will pave way for sustaining the population of over 600 species of migratory birds that use the flyway. India has continued its efforts to advance the process regarding the Central Asian Flyway and has taken steps in bringing the range countries for being part of the ‘Initiative for Central Asian Flyway’, that would be an instrument aimed at increasing the scientific and technical expertise in the region addressing the conservation priorities. The Convention on Migratory Species has awarded Champions Plus to India in recognition to this cause for conservation of migratory species along the Central Asian Flyway.” 

The Government of the Principality of Monaco was recognized as Champion Plus for its contribution towards the implementation of the Convention for the period 2024-2026. This new generous grant pledged by the Principality of Monaco not only maintains consistent backing for the CMS marine agenda, as done in previous years, but also allocates additional funds in support of other species initiatives. 

“Majors breakthroughs have been made during this last triennium to preserve biodiversity and in particular the Kunming/Montreal Biodiversity Framework and we would like to thank the entire CMS family for the key role that they have played in defining these global objectives. CMS will be instrumental in the implementation of the latter and among others, in promoting ecological connectivity which is not only essential to migratory species but also to maintain the Nature’s ecological services we all depend on. Therefore, for this next triennium, while Monaco intends to remain a strong supporter of CMS works on marine species conservation, it has decided to increase its voluntary contribution to extending its support to CMS work on crosscutting issues and in particular for the ecological connectivity’s agenda,”

said Ms Céline Van Klaveren-Impagliazzo, Head of Division of the Department of External Relations and Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Monaco, when receiving the award.  

The Government of the United Kingdom was recognized as a Champion for its contribution towards addressing the illegal and unsustainable taking of migratory species for the period 2024-2026. The illegal or unsustainable taking, use, or sale of wild animals poses a major threat to many migratory species. It is essential to strengthen our collective efforts to ensure that any activities involving the taking, use, or sale of migratory species are conducted within legal and sustainable frameworks.  

“On behalf of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I am delighted to receive the CMS Champion Award. The UK and its Overseas Territories provide a home to a vast array of migratory species, many of which are CMS-listed, and we strongly recognise the importance of their conservation to nature recovery. We also strongly value the work achieved under the Convention; through international collaboration, we can achieve more. This is why the UK has stepped forward to directly fund work on migratory species and climate change, supported the State of the World's Migratory Species Report and going forward will support the CMS initiative on the take of migratory species. Together these initiatives highlight the complex and interconnected issues which underpin the work of CMS, which we must all take urgent action to support.”,

said Caroline Daisley, Team Leader CITES and CMS and CMS Focal Point at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  

The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi was honored with a double award as Champion Plus for its support towards the conservation of migratory birds of prey in Africa and Asia, as well as for the conservation of dugongs and their habitats for the period 2024-2027. For nearly 15 years, the UAE has demonstrated exceptional leadership by playing a vital role in both co-developing and supporting the implementation of the CMS Raptors Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the CMS Dugong MoU. The award was received by Dr. Salim Javed, Division Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, along with all members of the EAD team, on behalf of the Secretary-General H.E. Dr. Shaikha Al Daheri. Dr. Salim Javed commented:  

“We are delighted to receive the two Champion Plus Awards on behalf of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi. We take a lot of pride in our partnership with the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) to conserve migratory birds of prey and Dugongs under the two MoUs.For over two decades, the Environment Agency has been implementing research, monitoring, and management programmes for the conservation of migratory species, from marine turtles, and dugongs to migratory birds. We have worked closely with the CMS Abu Dhabi Office in developing the Sooty Falcon Conservation Action Plan, the Seagrass Research toolkit and the 2030 Seagrass breakthrough initiative. We will continue to work on them and other exciting new initiatives as we extend this partnership for another four-year term. The Champion Night Awards are not just a recognition of our support to the work of the CMS, but also a reminder of our shared responsibility to protect migratory species.”  

The National Center for Wildlife of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was awarded as Champion for its contribution towards addressing illegal hunting, taking, and trade of migratory birds in Southwest Asia for the period 2024-2026. Illegal hunting, taking, and trade represent a major threat to migratory birds in the Southwest region. The pledge made by the National Center for Wildlife will support the launch of a dedicated Task Force aimed at coordinating efforts in the region to address this issue. 

Mr. Ahmed Al Boug, General Manager of Terrestrial Environment Conservation Department (NCW) who received the award, said:

“Situated between three continents and two major flyways for migratory species, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's strategic location suggests a reach diversity of bird species: more than 499 species have been recorded in the country, with an additional 78 species reported as vagrants. The new Environment strategy, the hunting legislation act, the standards for birds list of protected species and hunting bags along with the establishment of special forces for the Environment to implement these regulations are aligned under the Saudi Vision 2030. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was recognized as Migratory Species Champion for its leadership role in the IKB initiative in Southwest Asia. The National Center for Wildlife (NCW) in collaboration with the CMS Secretariat, organized a two-day meeting in Riyadh in January, to establish a Working Group for discussing and reviewing the action plan to eradicate IKB in the region. The Working Group committed to supporting the launching and operation of the intergovernmental Task Force on the illegal hunting, taking and trade of migratory species in the Southwest Asian region, for the coming three years, starting in 2024. The National Center for Wildlife as the CMS NFP is committed to supervising the initiative and ready to collaborate with the CMS Secretariat, range countries and all other effective actors to make this initiative successful in addressing IKB in the region". 

The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation was named Champion Plus for its support for the conservation of Central Asian mammals for the period 2020-2023. Central Asia is one of the last remaining global "migration hotspots." The vast steppe, desert, and mountain ecosystems of the region are home to iconic migratory mammals such as the Saiga antelope, the Mongolian gazelle, and the Khulan. The contribution from the International Academy for Nature Conservation of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in support of the CMS Central Asian Mammals Initiative (CAMI) for 2020-2023 has been instrumental in strengthening the conservation efforts of these mammals. CAMI has become one of the most successful instruments supporting the implementation of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in the region and beyond. 

The award was received by Dr. Bettina Hoffmann, Parliamentary State Secretary on behalf of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) who could not attend.

“The Central Asian countries are important partners for Germany in Nature conservation. Together with these countries and the CMS Secretariat, a strong alliance has developed to protect migratory species of wild animals of the Central Asian steppe and mountain regions. For many years now, we have been cooperating in the implementation of the Central Asian Mammals Initiative (CAMI). These joint efforts led to tangible positive outcomes for nature conservation. Building on the results of a joint conference in 2015 in Mongolia and the adoption of the Ulaanbaatar Action Plan on wildlife-friendly infrastructure, it was possible to dismantle fences that had crossed migration routes in Mongolia. For the first time in 65 years, the Asiatic Wild Ass was able to migrate into large areas of its former range in eastern Mongolia. These successes give us hope and show the importance of long-term dedication.”, commented Dr. Hoffmann. 

Since its launch in 2014, the Migratory Species Champion Programme has recognized the contributions of several institutions. The Programme aims to promote initiatives developed under the CMS Family and encourage their sustainable support. It is open to governments, companies, organizations, and individuals willing to make a financial commitment of at least three years to one or more specific initiatives that fall under the CMS family umbrella. It offers a portfolio of initiatives that contribute to the implementation of a broad programme targeting a species, a group of species, or a cross-cutting issue. 

To learn more about the Champion Programme, visit the dedicated pages on the CMS website


Last updated on 07 March 2024