CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was established in 1973. It is a global accord designed to restrict and regulate the trade in threatened and endangered plants and animals. CITES was ratified in 1975 after being approved in 1973. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is in charge of running it.

The main objective of CITES is to make sure that global trade does not imperil the continued existence of wild species. The import, export, and commercial use of a few species mentioned in the treaty’s appendices are subject to limits and rules as part of how it operates. Depending on how endangered they are, these species are grouped.

To control commerce, CITES uses a system of permits and certifications. To guarantee that the trade is legitimate and sustainable, any international commerce involving species listed in the CITES appendices needs the required licences or certifications.

The convention has three appendices, each providing a different level of protection:
  • Contains species that are endangered, listed in Appendix I. Except in exceptional cases for non-commercial uses (such as scientific research or captive breeding for protection), all foreign trade in these species is forbidden.
  • Included in Appendix II are species that, while not necessarily in danger of going extinct, could do so if their trade is not controlled. These species may be traded internationally, but only with licenses that assure the trade is sustainable and does not threaten the species’ survival.
  • Species protected by at least one nation are listed in Appendix III, and that nation has asked other CITES parties for assistance in regulating trade in those species.

In order to address the illegal wildlife trade and safeguard numerous endangered species from overexploitation, CITES has proved essential. It offers a framework for international cooperation to protect and manage biodiversity sustainably while permitting ethical trade in particular species where doing so does not endanger their survival.


One of the biggest and most established conservation and sustainable use treaties is CITES. All materials are made available in English, French, and Spanish, the three working languages of the Convention.Parties are nations that have voluntarily chosen to be bound by the convention and participation is voluntary. CITES is a binding agreement between the Parties, although national laws still apply. Instead, it offers an agreed-upon structure that each Party must adhere to in order to implement CITES at the national level.

The focus of CITES shifted to products demanded there, especially those used for luxury goods like elephant ivory or rhinoceros horn, with the expanding wealth of Asia, notably in China. Originally, CITES addressed depletion caused by demand for luxury goods like furs in Western countries. By 2022, CITES will cover thousands of species that were previously regarded as ordinary and not in risk of becoming extinct, such manta rays and pangolins.


On March 3, 1973, in Washington, D.C., United States, officials from 80 countries met to complete the convention’s language. The document remained open for signatures until December 31, 1974. On July 1st, 1975, it came into effect following the tenth ratification by a signatory nation. Ratification, acceptance, or approval of the Convention by nations that signed it makes them Parties. All signing nations had become Parties by the end of 2003. States that did not sign the convention may accede to it and therefore become Parties. The convention has 184 parties as of August 2022, including 183 states and the European Union.

Trade with non-Parties is covered by the CITES Convention’s clauses and regulations. Except for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Federated States of Micronesia, Haiti, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, South Sudan, East Timor, Turkmenistan, and Tuvalu, every member of the United Nations is a party to the agreement. The Holy See, a United Nation observer, is not a member either. The Faroe Islands, a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, are likewise considered to be outside of CITES (Greenland and the Danish mainland are also members of CITES).

Regional economic integration organizations (REIO), such as the European Union, are permitted to have the status of a member state and to be a Party to the convention thanks to a change to the convention’s wording known as the Gaborone Amendment. The number of votes cast by the REIO at CITES meetings equals the number of its members, although it does not have a separate vote.

The Gaborone Amendment became effective on November 29, 2013, 60 days after 54 (or two-thirds) of the 80 States that were parties to CITES on April 30, 1983, deposited their instrument of acceptance, in line with Article XVII, paragraph 3 of the CITES Convention. Only the States that had ratified the amendment at that time saw it come into effect. Any State that joins as a Party after November 29, 2013, will immediately be subject to the convention’s revised language. The amendment will take effect 60 days after being accepted by States who joined the convention before that time but did not embrace it.

Regulation of trade
  • As listed taxa traverse international borders, CITES regulates the international trade in their specimens. CITES specimens can range widely, from the entire animal or plant (alive or dead) to a product like cosmetics or traditional remedies that contains a piece or a derivative of the listed species.
  • Import, export, re-export (export of any specimen that has already been imported), and introduction from the sea (transportation into a state of specimens of any species that were taken in the marine environment outside the purview of any state) are the four types of trade recognized by CITES.
  • A financial transaction is not necessary for the term “trade” to be used according to the CITES definition. Prior to the transaction taking place, any trade in specimens of CITES-listed species must be approved through a system of licenses and certificates.
  • One or more Management Authorities, who are in charge of overseeing the CITES system in each nation, issue CITES licenses and certifications. One or more Scientific Authorities provide advice to Management Authorities regarding the impact of specimen trading on the status of CITES-listed species.
  • To authorize the transaction, competent border authorities in each nation must get CITES permits and certificates.

The CITES provisions must be implemented domestically by each country in order to be effective there. Parties may decide to enact more stringent domestic regulations than those stipulated by CITES (for instance, by demanding licenses or certifications in situations where they would not ordinarily be required or by outlawing the trade in certain specimens).


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