The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was created in 1975. It is an international agreement between world governments. It is the goal of CITES to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES is a voluntary agreement among countries, and is legally binding on the countries that have agreed to be bound by it. Although it does not take the place of national laws, each country must adopt its own legislation to ensure that it is implemented at the national level.

Why is CITES Important?

CITES is important because of the scope of international trade. Each year, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions and includes many millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade includes:

  • Timber
  • Live animals and plants
  • Wooden musical instruments
  • Wildlife products derived from animals and plants
  • Food products
  • Exotic leather goods
  • Other items

Some populations have been threatened with depletion and even extinction. CITES regulates the trade in wild animals and plants that crosses borders between countries.

What are the Provisions of CITES?

CITES places certain limitations on international trade. For instance, all import, export, re-export, and introduction from the list of species covered by the Convention must be authorized through a licensing system. Based on the degree of protection they need, species are listed in three Appendices:

  • Appendix I (Species threatened with extinction) – Trade is permitted only in exceptional circumstances
  • Appendix II – This includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival
  • Appendix III – This includes species protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES parties for assistance

Each Party to the Convention must appoint Management Authorities to administer the licensing system. They must also assign Scientific Authorities to advise them on the effects of trade on species. For the importation or exportation of CITES-listed species, appropriate documents must be obtained for clearance at ports of entry or exit.

Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced with International Trade and International Law?

A government lawyer who has experience with these issues will be able to help you understand national laws. If you are planning on bringing an animal or plant either into or out of the country, a lawyer would be able to best advise you on any legal issues you may face.