What is CITES?

The United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is a treaty among 183 nations.

CITES is designed to eliminate wildlife trafficking and ensure legal international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. It was founded as a conservation convention to restrict and even prohibit any international trade in wildlife unless it is proven to cause no risk for the species involved. For decades, IFAW has had observer status at CITES meetings. We supply research and expertise and advocate for decisions that will protect animals.

  • Twenty-one nations signed the Convention on 3 March 1973 and on 1 July 1975 CITES entered into force.
  • CITES protects roughly 5,000 species of animals and 28,000 species of plants
  • Although the Parties to CITES are legally bound to implement the Convention, it does not take the place of national laws. Signatories must adopt their own domestic legislation to implement CITES regulations.
  • Species are grouped in the CITES Appendices according to how threatened they may be by international trade. For species listed in Appendix I, commercial trade is basically prohibited, for species on Appendix II international trade may be allowed under certain controls and restrictions. 
  • In some cases, only a subspecies or geographically distinct population is listed: for example, the population of a species in just one country such as elephants in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
  • IFAW is one of the key experts in CITES informing better decision making for the protection of many species, like elephants, whales, tigers and sharks. At the same time IFAW programs address major general conservation problems, such as wildlife over consumption, illegal trade via the internet (e-commerce), lack of good enforcement capacity and more.