One of the reasons for biodiversity loss on Earth is the wild animals and rare plants trade. Therefore, trade in specimens of selected species is restricted internationally by the Washington Convention, also known as CITES. We present who is a party to the CITES and what specimens are listed in the Convention.

What is CITES?

CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is an international agreement between governments. It is also called the Washington Convention, as it was drafted in Washington D.C. in 1973. So far, 183 countries have signed the Convention.

The Convention aims to protect wild animals and plants from extinction and regulates the international trade of specified specimens.

The Washington Convention regulates the trade and transportation of over 36,000 species of animals and plants. Together with parts and derivatives of these species, they are named CITES specimens. Import, export, re-export, and introduction of species covered by the Convention must be authorized through a licensing system.

According to CITES regulations, international trade in species listed in appendices to the Convention is allowed only if it does not threaten the survival of the species.

The Convention applies not only to protected or wild species but also to those bred in captivity and are personal or household effect. Only some of the species listed in the Appendices to the Convention are threatened with expected extinction.

The CITES permits and certificates enable the transportation of specimens listed in the Convention and related regulations.

What is a CITES specimen?

According to CITES, specimens mean:

  • any animal, whether alive or dead: any readily recognizable part or derivative thereof (species included in Appendices I and II); any readily recognizable part or derivative thereof in relation to the species (species included in Appendix III),
  • any plant: any readily recognizable part or derivative thereof (species included in Appendix I); any readily recognizable part or derivative thereof in relation to the species (species included in Appendices II and III).

The following are considered specimens:

  • live and dead animals, plants,
  • products made of horns, bones, ivory,
  • stuffed animals and hunting trophies,
  • footwear and haberdashery made of snakes’ skins, crocodiles, Komodo dragons, etc.,
  • jewelry and accessories containing parts of protected plants and animals,
  • medicines containing powdered fragments of animals or plants.

The list of specimens is in the Appendixes of the Convention.

What specimens are in each group?

The list of specimens and their classification is available in the regulations and on Spiecesplus. On the website, you download the lists of specimens. A similar species search engine is also available on the CITES website.

For example, group A includes live parrots (Saint Vincent Amazon Amazona guildingii; Red-necked Amazon Amazona arausiaca), hunting trophies (Grizzly Bear Ursus arctos; Arctic Wolf Canis lupus), and stuffed specimens (Hawk Accipitridae spp).

Group B includes derivatives of organisms (in TCM capsules: Japanese Seahorse Hippocampus mohnikei, medicinal leeches Hirudo medicinalis), skeletons of reef-forming corals (Starry Cup Coral Acanthastrea echinate), live plants (Triangle Cactus Acanthocereus tetragonus), or even instruments, like a guitar (Indian rosewood Dalbergia Latifolia).

What is the scope of the CITES convention?

As mentioned before, 183 countries are Parties to the Convention. The list of contracting parties can be found on the CITES website.

Parties to CITES

When is a CITES certificate required?

If you import or re-export any live animal or plant of a species listed in the CITES Appendices (or any part or derivative of such animal or plant), you must obtain a permit or certificate.

A CITES certificate is required when specimens are transported between different countries.

Until you obtain this certificate, we recommend not signing a contract of carriage of specimens included in the regulations.

CITES form
A standard CITES form

How to get a CITES certificate?

Authorities of individual countries issue all permits and certificates. Original permits and certificates are required at the customs border. Additional information can be found on the government’s websites.