credits: Francesco Cardia

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement among governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The Convention entered into force on 1 July 1975 and currently has a membership of 173 countries.

Roughly 5 000 species of animals and 28 000 species of plants are protected by CITES (see CITES general overview). Those species are listed in one of three Appendices, and international trade in these species is controlled according to the degree of protection they require.

Cites Appendices

CITES member countries act by banning commercial international trade in an agreed list of endangered species and by regulating and monitoring trade in others that might become endangered. It has established a world-wide system of controls on international trade in threatened wildlife and wildlife products by stipulating that government permits are required for such trade.

Threatened species are listed by Parties (countries) in one of the three appendices. Each list has a different protection level obtained through a system of permits and certificates (CITES documents) to be provided to the custom offices of both exporting and importing country. This system permits countries to monitor trade volumes of each endangered species, ensuring a legal and sustainable trade.

Protection is provided for species in two main categories:

The most endangered species

Appendix I: includes all species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade. Trade in specimens of Appendix I species is normally prohibited, and may be allowed in exceptional circumstances when the purpose of the import is not commercial, for instance, for scientific research.
Other species at serious risk

Appendix II: includes species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes so-called “look-alike” species, i.e. species similar in appearance to the species listed for conservation reasons.  Trade in Appendix II specimens is only allowed if certain conditions are met, above all that the trade level will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. 

Appendix III: includes species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.

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