CONVENTION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES OF WILD FAUNA AND FLORA

"Wild fauna and flora in their many beautiful and
varied forms are an irreplaceable part of the natural systems of
the earth which must be protected for this and
the generations to come."

- Preamble, CITES Convention

About CITES

The international wildlife trade is worth billions of dollars annually and has been responsible for the decline of wild populations of a number of species of animals and plants. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty was first signed in 1973 in order to protect certain species of wild fauna and flora against over-exploitation through trade. CITES first entered into force on 1 July 1975, and now 175 nations ("Parties") have signed the CITES treaty.

CITES provides three levels of protection for species in international trade. 

CITES Appendix I includes those species that are threatened with extinction and that are or may be affected by international trade. These species may not be traded internationally for primarily commercial purposes. However, such species may be exported and imported for non-commercial purposes. Examples of species on CITES Appendix I are the tiger, Asian elephant, chimpanzee, humpback whale, sun bear, scarlet macaw, sea turtle species, Brazilian rosewood, giant tropical pitcher plant, and Asian tropical lady's slipper orchid.

CITES Appendix II includes those species that, although not necessarily threatened with extinction, may become so unless trade is strictly regulated in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. Species also may be listed on Appendix II if their parts or products cannot be readily distinguished from those of other species listed on CITES Appendix I or II. International trade in Appendix II species is allowed, but is strictly controlled. Parties may only grant a permit to export such species after it has determined that the export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. Examples of species listed on Appendix II are the American black bear, southern fur seal, Hartmann's mountain zebra, toco toucan, common iguana, bigleaf mahogany, triangle palm, and cyclamen species.

CITES Appendix III includes those species that any Party has identified as being subject to regulation of exploitation within its jurisdiction and as needing the cooperation of other Parties to monitor international trade in the species. Such cooperation is achieved primarily by the issuance of export permits by a state which has included the species in Appendix III (these may be granted only if the specimen was not obtained in contravention of the laws of the exporting Party) and by the issuance of certificates of origin by other states that export Appendix III species. Examples of species listed on Appendix III and the countries that listed them are the two-toed sloth (Costa Rica), African civet (Botswana), and the alligator snapping turtle (USA).

A CITES export permit for any live specimen of a species listed on any CITES Appendix may be granted only when the Management Authority of the exporting Party is satisfied that it will be prepared and shipped so as to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health, or cruel treatment.

CITES Parties are expected to implement and enforce the treaty's provisions through domestic legislation. Each Party must establish a CITES Management Authority to issue import and export permits, to monitor trade in CITES species, and to compile annual trade reports, and a CITES Scientific Authority to provide scientific expertise on import and export decisions. Fundamental to this approach is the use of precaution in cases of uncertainty: Trade should not be allowed unless there are sufficient information and safeguards to ensure that a species is protected from over-utilization

The Parties consider and vote on proposals to add or delete species from Appendices I and II at their triennial meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COPs). Parties may unilaterally add species to Appendix III at any time.

CITES COPs also provide an opportunity for Parties to consider and vote on resolutions that interpret the language of the treaty. For example, the Parties have adopted resolutions providing criteria for listing species on the CITES Appendices, a mechanism for reviewing the trade in Appendix II species to ensure that it is not detrimental to the survival of species, and a procedure for approving and registering operations that captive breed or ranch for commercial purposes species listed on CITES Appendix I.

Three CITES Committees--the Standing, Animals, and Plants Committees--each composed of Party representatives from six geographic regions [Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America], are active between COPs.

To visit the Official CITES website, go to our Links page.


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CITES: A Guide
for the Perplexed


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International Trade in Wildlife and CITES



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