2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Animal & Human Rights; Law

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between Governments, drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival and it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 33,000 species of animals and plants.

Not one species protected by CITES has become extinct as a result of trade since the Convention entered into force in 1975 (but see case studies in and Stiles 2004 for more nuanced discussions of the role CITES has played in the fate of particular species).

The Convention: background and operation

CITES is one of the largest conservation agreements in existence. Participation is voluntary, and countries that have agreed to be bound by the Convention are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties, 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 make sure that CITES is implemented at the national level. Often, domestic legislation is either non-existent (especially in Parties that have not ratified it), or with penalties incommensurate with the gravity of the crime and insufficient deterrents to wildlife traders . As of 2002, 50% of Parties lacked one or more of the four major requirements for a Party: designation of Management and Scientific Authorities (see below); laws prohibiting the trade in violation of CITES; penalties for such trade; laws providing for the confiscation of specimens

The text of the Convention was concluded at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington, D.C., United States, on 3 March 1973. It was then open for signature until 31 December 1974. It entered into force after the 10th ratification by a signatory State, on 1 July 1975. States that signed the Convention become Parties by ratifying, accepting or approving it. By the end of 2003, all signatory States had become Parties. States that were not signatories may become Parties by acceding to the Convention. As of August 2006, 169 States had become Parties to the Convention.

Funding for the activities of the Secretariat and COP meetings comes from a Trust Fund derived from Party contributions. Trust Fund money is not available to Parties to improve implementation or compliance. These activities, and all those outside Secretariat activities (training, species specific programs such as MIKE) must find external funding (often from NGOs and bilateral aid)

Although the Convention itself does not provide for arbitration or dispute in the case of noncompliance, 30 years of CITES in practice has resulted in several strategies to deal with infractions by Parties. The Secretariat, when informed of an infraction by a Party, will notify all other parties. The Secretariat will give the Party time to respond to the allegations and may provide technical assistance to prevent further infractions. Other actions (not provided for in the Convention itself, but derived from subsequent COP 11 resolutions) which may be taken against the offending Party include: mandatory confirmation of all permits by the Secretariat; suspension of cooperation from the Secretariat; a formal warning; a visit by the Secretariat to verify capacity; recommendations to all Parties to suspend CITES related trade with offending party (see ); the dictation of corrective measures to be taken by offending Party before Secretariat will resume cooperation/recommend resumption of trade. Bilateral sanctions have been imposed on the basis of national legislation (e.g. the USA used the Pelly Amendment to deal a blow to Japanese tortoiseshell exports in 1991).

Infractions may include negligence with respect to permit issuing, excessive trade, lax enforcement, and failing to produce annual reports (the most common)

CITES Appendices

CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. These require that all import, export, re-export and introduction of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a permitting system.

Each Party to the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities in charge of administering the licensing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to make judgements about the effects of trade on the status of the species. Species are proposed for listing at COPs, the next of which will be held in the Hague in June of 2007. Species may be proposed for listing by Parties other than the range states and may be listed despite objections by range state nations if there is sufficient (2/3 majority) support for the listing. These discussions are usually among the most contentious at COP meetings.

Roughly 5,000 species of animals and 28,000 species of plants are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade. The endangered species are grouped in the Appendices according to how threatened they are by international trade and the measures that apply to their trade. Species may be split-listed meaning that some populations of a species are on one Appendix, while some are on another. Some people argue that this is risky as specimens from a more protected population could be ‘laundered’ through the borders of a Party whose population is not as strictly protected. The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is currently split-listed, with all populations except those of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe listed in Appendix I. Those of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are listed in Appendix II. Listing the species over the whole of its range would prevent such ‘laundering’ but also restricts trade in wildlife products by range states with good management practices.

There has been increasing willingness within the Parties to allow for trade in products from well-managed populations. In particular, sales of the South African white rhino have been able to generate revenues which were later applied to conservation. While listing the species on Appendix I not only increased the price of rhino horn (which fueled more poaching) in South Africa, where there was adequate on-the-ground protection, the species survived. The survival of the white rhino is attributed more to increased levels of field protection than exclusively to CITES listing, but it is likely that field protection might not have increased without CITES protection.

Appendix I - about 800 species

These species are threatened with extinction if trade is not halted. Trade in wild-caught specimens of these species is illegal (permitted only in exceptional licenced circumstances). Trade of captive bred animals or cultivated plants of Appendix I species are considered Appendix II specimens, with concomitant requirements (see below and Article VII). The management authority of the exporting country must make a non-detriment finding, assuring that export of the individuals will not adversely affect the wild population. Any trade in these species requires export and import permits; the Management Authority of the exporting state is expected to check that an import permit has been secured and that the importing state will be able to care for the specimen adequately. Notable animal species include the gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), the chimpanzee species (Pan spp.), tigers (Panthera tigris subspecies), Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica), leopards (Panthera pardus), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), some populations of African Elephant (Loxodonta africana), the dugong and manatees ( Sirenia), and all Rhinoceros species (except some Southern African subspecies populations) .

Appendix II - about 32,500 species

These species are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but may become so if they are not listed. In addition, species similar in appearance and easily confused with Appendix I species may be listed in Appendix II. A non-detriment finding and export permit are required by the exporting Party.

Appendix III - about 300 species

These are species listed after one member country has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling trade in a species. The species are not necessarily threatened by extinction globally. In all member countries trade in these species is only permitted with an appropriate export permit and a certificate of origin.

Amendments and Reservations

Amendments must be supported by a two-thirds majority and can be made during an extraordinary meeting of the COP if one-third of the Parties are interested in such a meeting. The Gaborone Amendment (1983) allows regional economic blocs to accede to the treaty. Reservations (Article XXIII) can be made by any Party with respect to any species, which considerably weakens the treaty (see for current reservations). Trade with non-Party states is allowed, although permits and certificates are recommended to be issued by exporters and sought by importers.

Shortcomings of and Concerns with CITES

General concerns about the structure and philosophy of CITES include: it remains focused on species and does not address habitat loss, ecosystem approaches and the effect poverty can have on its effectiveness; it seeks to prevent unsustainable use, not promote sustainable use (which generally conflicts with the Convention on Biological Diversity), although this has been changing (see e.g. Nile Crocodile, African elephant, South African white rhino case studies in Hutton and Dickinson 2000) it does not explicitly address market demand ; and funding does not provide for increased on the ground enforcement (must apply for bilateral aid for most projects of this nature

Specific weaknesses in the text include: it does not stipulate guidelines for the 'non-detriment' finding required of national Scientific Authorities; non-detriment findings require copious amounts of information; the 'household effects' clause is often not rigid enough/specific enough to prevent CITES violations by means of this Article (VII); non-reporting from Parties means Secretariat monitoring is incomplete; and it has no capacity to address domestic trade in listed species.

Suggestions for improvement in the operation of CITES include: more regular missions by the Secretariat (not reserved just for high profile species); improvement of national legislation and enforcement; better reporting by Parties (and the consolidation of information from all sources-NGOs, TRAFFIC and Parties); more emphasis on enforcement-including a technical committee enforcement officer; the development of CITES Action Plans (akin to Biodiversity Action Plans related to the Convention on Biological Diversity) including: designation of Scientific/Management Authorities and national enforcement strategies; incentives for reporting and timelines for both Action Plans and reporting. CITES would benefit from access to GEF funds-although this is difficult given the GEFs more ecosystem approach-or other more regular funds. Development of a funding mechanism similar to that of the Montreal Protocol (developed nations contribute to a fund for developing nations) could allow more funds for non-Secretariat activities.

Links to the official CITES website

  • CITES homepage

Member countries (Parties)

  • Chronological list of Parties
  • Alphabetical list of Parties

The lists of species included in Appendices I, II and III (i.e. species protected by CITES)

  • Explanation of the Appendices
  • Number of species on the Appendices
  • Species lists (Appendices I, II and III)

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