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International trade in wildlife parts

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) & International Trade in Wildlife Parts

The international trade in wildlife, including live species and plant and animal products, is worth billions of dollars and includes trade in millions of species. In the 1960s people became concerned that as the wildlife trade increased, plants and animals would quickly become endangered or extinct, and in 1975 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was established.

CITES is an agreement between governments, now including about 170 countries, to regulate the trade of wild plants and animals between members and to ensure their survival is not threatened. Over 30;000 species are protected through CITES.

In order to protect this many plants and animals, CITES uses a system of appendices to regulate different species. Appendix I contains a list of animals that parties have agreed are banned from international commerce trade. Appendix II lists those animals that may be traded under specific conditions. Appendix III includes those animals that are protected in at least one country that has asked CITES for help in trade control.

Trade is prohibited for species threatened with extinction except in specific circumstances such as for those bred in captivity or used in scientific research.

Every 2-3 years the parties – countries that have agreed to adhere to CITES – meet together to discuss various issues and to present and vote on proposals. Proposals are submitted by a country to add or remove a species from an appendix, and are passed with two thirds of the vote.

Non-government organizations can participate in CITES either by observing or, with the support of two thirds of the vote, can make presentations, compile information, and make recommendations. They cannot vote themselves but are able to influence voters.

Countries voluntarily adhere to the agreement, and are each responsible for domestic legislation, for which CITES provides a framework. There is a licensing system for the import and export of animals and each country delegates a domestic “Management Authority” to administer this licensing. Each also designates a “Scientific Authority” to give advice on different aspects of trade and the status of different species.

In Canada the Canadian Wildlife Service is responsible for the management of CITES implementation. Each province and territory has its own management authority and the Canadian Wildlife Service provides the Scientific Authority.

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