Protecting plants and animals from international trade

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement that aims to ensure that trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES was adopted in 1975, and 184 governments (referred to as “Parties” in CITES parlance) have joined the treaty and are bound by its provisions. More than 30,000 species of animals and plants are listed under CITES and have varying degrees of protection depending on their appendix listing.

Animal and plant species may be added to, removed from, or moved between appendices at the regular Conference of the Parties meetings, which are held approximately every three years. Any changes to Appendices I or II require approval by two-thirds of CITES Parties. Listing a species on Appendix III is conducted by individual Parties and can occur at any time.


Appendix IIncludes plants and animals that are threatened with extinction.CITES prohibits international commercial trade in specimens from these species. International trade is only permitted for exceptional non-commercial circumstances, such as for scientific research, and must be accompanied by export and import permits.
Appendix IIIncludes species not necessarily threatened with extinction yet, but which may become so if the threats to their survival, such as trade, are not sufficiently addressed.International trade in specimens from species listed on Appendix II requires an export permit or re-export certificate. Permits and certificates should only be granted if certain conditions are met, namely that trade will not be detrimental to the species’ survival and that the specimen being traded was legally acquired.
Appendix IIIIncludes species that are not necessarily threatened by extinction globally.Species are listed on Appendix III by individual Parties to secure international assistance in controlling trade in that species. International trade involving Parties that have listed a species on Appendix III is allowed only with appropriate permits or certificates.


EIA regularly attends CITES meetings in order to increase and safeguard protections for threatened species, improve enforcement of the Convention, and hold relevant Parties accountable for their roles in the illegal wildlife trade. CITES provides important opportunities to protect tree species that are in high demand and subject to illegal logging and timber smuggling, and to ban the global trade in wildlife products that drive poaching of threatened species like elephants and rhinos. It also generates useful data for tracking trade in CITES-listed species and presents a framework for collaboration among authorities of both range states and consumer countries to make the trade in certain timber products like precious woods transparent and sustainable. However, the implementation and enforcement of CITES is not without its challenges, including those of lack of oversight, enforcement, and political will. While the CITES convention isn’t perfect, it is an important regulatory tool EIA strives to work within and improve to protect wildlife and timber species from the threat of trade.


Related Resources


Still Open for Business

Japan is currently the world’s most significant open ivory market, but the government has the opportunity to change that status. EIA will continue to advocate for the end of all legal ivory trade, everywhere and at every level, in order to protect elephants.


Opening the Rosewood Pandora’s Box

Recent trade data shows that the trade suspension of P. erinaceus has slowed, but not stopped, the export of this endangered rosewood species from its range in West Africa. Evidence from the ground also shows that illegal logging and international trafficking of the species are still taking place across the region.


Investing in Extinction

Despite CITES protections, EIA UK discovered that leopard, pangolin, and other endangered species are still being used in licensed traditional Chinese medicine products. Major banks and financial institutions also continue to invest in pharmaceutical companies that manufacture these products.