CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement to which States (countries) adhere voluntarily. It is also called the “Washington Convention”. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention (’joined’ CITES) are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level. For many years CITES has been among the conservation agreements with the largest membership, with now 173 Parties. In force since 1975, the Convention regulates the border crossing of more than 33000 species. It applies to animals and plants, alive or dead, whole or parts, wildlife products and objects (also called specimens). The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines.
More than 5000 animal species and 28000 plant species are covered by CITES and listed in three Appendices , according to the degree of protection they need.
- Includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
- Includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
- Contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. Changes to Appendix III follow a distinct procedure from changes to Appendices I and II, as each Party’s is entitled to make unilateral amendments to it.
A specimen of a CITES-listed species may be imported into or exported (or re-exported) from a State Party to the Convention only if the appropriate document has been obtained and presented for clearance at the port of entry or exit. There is some variation of the requirements from one country to another and it is always necessary to check on the national laws that may be stricter. The relevant authorities deliver the appropriate documents only if they are convinced that the specimens have been obtained in a legal way and that it does not affect the status of the species.