African Carnivores Initiative

The Joint CITES-CMS African Carnivores Initiative (ACI)


Conservation status and threats

The Lion (Panthera leo), Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), Leopard (Panthera pardus) and African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) are iconic predators in Africa, vital for maintaining healthy ecosystem functioning. Red List assessments of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicate that while stable in parts of their ranges, the populations of these four carnivore species in Africa are in constant, sometimes severe decline. The four species have been discussed at recent meetings of the Conferences of the Parties (COPs) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The Range State Parties of the four African carnivore species have acknowledged that the major threats to these species today are: habitat degradation and fragmentation; conversion of habitat into agricultural land and livestock pastures; prey depletion through poaching and livestock rearing; and human-carnivore conflicts, resulting in poisoning and illegal killing [see First Meeting of Range States of the Joint CITES-CMS African Carnivores Initiative (ACI1)]. The Parties recognized that urgent actions were required for conserving the populations of the four species across the continent, and that long-term commitments are needed from Range State Parties and the international community.

Establishment of a joint CITES-CMS African Carnivores Initiative

CMS COP12 instructed the CMS Secretariat to establish the Joint CITES-CMS African Carnivores Initiative (ACI). CITES Parties at COP18 (Geneva, 2019) and CMS Parties at COP13 (Gandhinagar, 2020) directed their respective Secretariats to cooperate closely, and in collaboration with IUCN, to develop a dedicated programme of work (POW) for the initiative. In addition, CMS Parties at COP13 adopted Resolution 13.4: Joint CITES-CMS African Carnivores Initiative, providing the Initiative with a long-term vision and working modalities. Throughout the establishment of the ACI, the Secretariats have cooperated closely with Specialist Groups of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission to underpin their work with sound scientific information and data.

Uniqueness and added value of the African Carnivores Initiative

The ACI is a unique collaboration between the two global treaties mandated to conserve wild species. CMS focuses on preserving and restoring the spaces that migratory animals use during their life cycles; and CITES regulates their international trade to ensure the sustainability, legality and traceability of such trade. The establishment of the ACI is in harmony with the CITES Strategic Vision: 2021-2030 and the CMS Strategic Plan for Migratory Species (2015-2023) as the objectives of the ACI (see below) contribute to achieving the strategic goals of CITES and CMS, and responds to the IUCN Abu Dhabi Call for Global Species Conservation Action. Moreover, the ACI was not only welcomed by the Range States but also received the support of both Convention COPs.

Through the joint approach of the ACI, CMS and CITES can drive more effective conservation of the four carnivores from different, complementary angles. The ACI will form an umbrella that synthesises conservation plans and actions or measures taken by various organisations in favour of the four carnivores and their habitats. By offering opportunities to collectively address conservation efforts for these four iconic species, the ACI is expected to enhance conservation effectiveness across the range of the four species; help avoid duplicative activities and associated costs; generate resources; and pool funds and expertise. The ACI will further allow the effective and equitable deployment of resources for the four species, and the application of holistic conservation approaches. It will collaborate with all stakeholders and with other relevant conservation initiatives and organizations; and create opportunities for donors to allocate resources to well-coordinated and internationally recognized conservation actions.

The ACI is supported by the Secretariats of CITES and CMS. It seeks to involve the Range State Parties, as well as relevant intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other partners, in developing and implementing international and domestic conservation measures for the four carnivore species.


The African Carnivores Initiative (ACI) shall, under CITES and CMS, and with input from ACI Range States, IGOs and NGOs, other partners, and donors, be a vital support platform to facilitate the effective conservation of the Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, and African Wild Dog both as flagship species of African wildlife and important predators in African ecosystems.


The work of the ACI is based on the effective compilation, generation and translation of scientific evidence into policies, the enhanced information exchange of Range State Parties with each other and with implementing partners, as well as to supply partners with funding and other resources.

The ACI promotes and facilitates activities that contribute to the conservation of the four carnivore species, including (but not limited to):

Direct preservation:

  • through development and timely implementation of conservation frameworks, ensuring that any use of the species is sustainable and legal, and that illegal killing, including poisoning, is prevented;

Conservation and restoration of their prey:

  • through development of best practice guidelines, habitat protection and sustainable management;

Conservation and connectivity of habitats:

  • through minimising adverse effects of land use and development leading to habitat destruction and fragmentation, or impoverished biodiversity; and through promoting ecological corridors, protected areas and other best practice land uses;

Sustainable co-existence with humans:

  • through understanding and mitigating human-carnivore conflicts by sharing management between affected communities and governmental, public and private institutions, and by providing socio-economic benefits and improved livelihoods to local communities living with these carnivores.

Working modalities

The ACI will be implemented through a Programme of Work (POW), based on the resolutions and decisions adopted by the COPs of both Conventions, as well as relevant species-specific conservation strategies and guidelines: the Roadmap for the Conservation of the Leopard, the Guidelines for the Conservation of Lions in Africa, and the Outcomes of the ACI1 Meeting

Regular ACI Range State Meetings will be convened to monitor progress of the implementation of the POW, and exchange best practices and lessons learned. The Meetings will also provide a forum for the Range States to exchange scientific information and data among each other, and with other partners.

In cooperation with donor countries and institutions, a sustainable funding mechanism is envisaged, which shall be accessible to governmental and non-governmental partners that shall enable effective implementation of the POW.

Next steps for advancing the ACI (as of September 2020)

Development of a joint Programme of Work for the ACI (POW):

  • CITES and CMS Secretariats together with IUCN Species Specialist Groups developed a draft POW in 2020.
  • The draft POW was circulated to Range State Parties for feedback from December 2020 to January 2021
  • Feedback from Range States was integrated and a revised draft POW was reviewed by the Standing Committee at its 73rd Meeting (CITES SC73) in May 2021. To enhance clarity of the ACI POW on several activities, an intersessional Working Group was formed whose work is to be completed in time for its consideration by the 52nd Meeting of the CMS Standing Committee.
  • CMS Standing Committee to approve the draft POW at its 52nd Meeting in September 2021.
  • Start implementing the adopted POW.

Explore opportunities for a long-term funding mechanism with:

  • Governments and Regional Economic Commissions;
  • Development and Investment Banks;
  • Public and private foundations;
  • Others as appropriate.

Agree on a governance structure for the ACI

  • Discuss and agree at the 2nd ACI Range State Meeting the administrative structure for the ACI.

Explore funding opportunities with donors for:

  • Management of the ACI, including convening the 2nd ACI Range State Meeting for discussions on driving POW implementation;
  • Tasks / projects commissioned directly through the ACI governance structure;
  • Public calls for projects implementing the ACI POW.


Title Status Status date CMS Party number Region
Algeria Range State 094 Africa
Angola Range State 099 Africa
Benin Range State 021 Africa
Botswana Range State Africa
Burkina Faso Range State 030 Africa
Burundi Range State 116 Africa
Cameroon Range State 001 Africa
Central African Republic Range State 128 Africa
Chad Range State 051 Africa
Congo (Brazzaville) Range State 066 Africa
Côte d'Ivoire Range State 083 Africa
Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa) Range State 034 Africa
Djibouti Range State 087 Africa
Egypt Range State 001 Africa
Equatorial Guinea Range State 114 Africa
Eritrea Range State 089 Africa
Eswatini Range State 118 Africa
Ethiopia 113 Africa
Gabon Range State 109 Africa
Gambia Range State 075 Africa
Instrument nameAfrican Carnivores Initiative
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