The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
Elephants and CITES
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES for short regulates most wildlife trade, including animals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and plants. Currently regulation of fisheries trade is subject to debate.
Tracing the origin of CITES starts with a 1963 resolution at a conference of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), a conservation group of scientists, non-governmental and governmental organizations in operation since 1948. Ten years of draft proposals and negotiations among concerned parties culminated in the signing of CITES at a Conference in Washington D.C. in 1973. The treaty entered into force in 1975 when ten state governments ratified it.
How CITES Works
CITES can best be described as a three legged institution perched atop a set of appendices. All three of CITES primary institutions, the Secretariat, The Conference of Parties, and the Management and Scientific Authorities theoretically work in harmony to monitor transnational trade of designated wildlife in order to insure that said trade continues on a sustainable basis.
The CITES Secretariat, the forum's administrative arm, has responsibility for information gathering and dissemination, as well as organizing the bi-annual meetings of the parties.
The Conference of Parties, or COP for short, is the formal forum for member states to review the effectiveness of the treaty and vote on any proposed changes to species listings.
CITES teeth, or the legal implementation of the terms of the treaty, are the province of each member state. States are given a basic set of guidelines to establish a Management and Scientific Authority for regulating, monitoring, and enforcing both the importation and exportation of listed species.
CITES appendices determine the trade status of species, and divides into thre categories which designate the terms of trade for the listed species. From time to time, member states change listing criteria.
Appendix I - Species here are recognized as the most endangered, potentially on the verge of extinction. Trade in these species is limited to a very few cases (see Article 3 of the treaty) in which the primary trade consideration is not commercial interests. For example, elephants in this category could be traded if the purpose of their trade was scientific research (i.e., elephants going to certain zoos for care and reproductive research.)
Appendix II - Species here are recognized as 'potentially' endangered and are subject to monitored or managed trade. In this category, commercial interests may be a primary factor for trade (see Article 4 of the treaty). In many instances, trade is commonly restricted to species coming from specific geographical regions and/or a quota on their trade is put into place. So, for example, the placing of elephants on this list means that the ivory trade can continue providing that the trade meets certain requirements.
Appendix III - Article II (3) defines this category as "all species which any Party identifies as being subject to regulation within its jurisdiction for the purpose of preventing or restricting exploitation, and as needing the co-operation of other Parties in the control of trade". Generally only a trade permit and compliance with the domestic laws of the trading states is required (see Article 5 of the treaty).
© 1999-2011. Patricia A. Michaels. All rights reserved.