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Author: Adam Pires ~ TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa

( Article Type: Explanation )

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement that was signed in Washington, DC on 3 March 1973, and came into force in 1975 after the 10th ratification. There are at present 172 countries party to the CITES Convention, which is one of the largest wildlife conservation agreements in existence.
CITES establishes the necessary international legal framework for the regulation of trade in endangered species as well as parts and derivatives thereof. Member countries need to ensure the provisions of CITES are enforced through national legislation. CITES regulates trade using a system of permits and certificates issued in accordance with the decisions and resolutions taken at the Conference of the Parties, which is held roughly every two years.

CITES accords varying degrees of protection to wild animal and plant species, depending on the effect international trade has or could have on them. These degrees of protection are afforded through the following Appendices:
Appendix I lists species that are threatened with extinction and are, or may be, affected by trade. Appendix I species are subject to strict regulation and trade is only authorised under exceptional circumstances. Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily currently threatened with extinction, but may become so unless trade in them is strictly regulated so as to ensure sustainability.
Appendix II also lists so-called look-alike species, which, due to their similarity in appearance to other species on Appendix I or II, must be managed so as to ensure effective control of both species.
Appendix III lists species that are subject to regulation within the jurisdiction of a Party and for which the co-operation of other Parties is needed to prevent or restrict their exploitation.

Upon accession to CITES, a country must designate one or more Management Authorities and one or more Scientific Authorities. The Management Authority is chiefly responsible for issuing permits and compiling annual trade reports. The Scientific Authority provides advice to the Management Authority on issuing permits for the import, export or re-export of a CITES-listed species. The Management Authority must first consult with the Scientific Authority prior to issuing CITES permits. Essentially the Scientific Authority’s key role is to ensure that the trade of a CITES-listed species will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.