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

(Source: CITES, IUCN/SSC) News

CITES aims to regulate and monitor the international trade in selected species of plants and animals to ensure that such trade does not endanger the survival of populations in the wild.

CITES is an international agreement to which States (countries) adhere voluntarily. States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention are known as Parties, collectively referred to as the Conference of the Parties, their meetings as 'CoPs'. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level. Today, 175 countries signed the Convention. The Conference of the Parties to CITES is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention and comprises all its member States.

Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future. The effort to regulate cross-border trade requires international cooperation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Each Party is required to appoint one or more Management Authorities, and at least one Scientific Authority. The Management Authority, always a government department, executes the provisions of the Convention and is responsible for issuing CITES permits.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). The text of the Convention was finally agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington D.C. in 1973, and entered in force on 1 July 1975.

The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. The Conference of the Parties (CoP), which is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention and comprises all its member States, has agreed on a set of biological and trade criteria to help determine whether a species should be included in Appendices I or II. At each regular meeting of the CoP, Parties submit proposals based on those criteria to amend these two Appendices. A specimen of a CITES-listed species may be imported into or exported (or re-exported) from a State party to the Convention only if the appropriate document has been obtained and presented for clearance at the port of entry or exit. There is some variation of the requirements from one country to another and it is always necessary to check on the national laws that may be stricter. An Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. Changes to Appendix III follow a distinct procedure from changes to Appendices I and II, as each Party's is entitled to make unilateral amendments to it.

Every two to three years, the Conference meets to review the implementation, consider proposals, and recommend measures to improve the effectiveness of the Convention. In June 2007, CoP14 took place in The Hague (the Netherlands); CoP15 will meet in March 2010, in Doha (Qatar). The CITES Standing Committee provides policy guidance to the Secretariat concerning the implementation of the Convention and oversees the management of the Secretariat's budget. The CITES Secretariat is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and is located at Geneva, Switzerland. It has a pivotal role, fundamental to the Convention and its functions. In 1987, the Animals and Plants Committees of experts were established to fill gaps in biological and other specialized knowledge regarding species of animals and plants that are (or might become) subject to CITES trade controls. The members of these Committees are individuals from the six major geographical regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Central and South America and the Caribbean, and Oceania) as well as one specialist on nomenclature on each of the two committees. The Committees meet twice between CoPs and provide scientific advice and guidance to the Conference, the other committees, working groups and the Secretariat. Presently, IOS members Maurizio Sajeva (Italy) and Jonas Lüthy (Switzerland) are representatives in the Plant Committee for the geographical region Europe, Jonas Lüthy as CITES Management Authority. One of the tasks of the Committees is the preparation of regional directories for each of the six CITES regions. These directories list the experts in CITES-listed species in each Party.

There are four major succulent plant groups covered by CITES - the cactus family (Cactaceae), the succulent Euphorbia species (Euphorbiacae), the genera Aloe and Pachypodium (Apocynaceae). The Cactaceae is by far the largest group and includes over 2,000 species. The entire Cactus family is included in CITES Appendix II, with a number of the most endangered species listed in Appendix I. There are over 700 succulent species from a total of 2,000 species in the genus Euphorbia, over 400 species in the genus Aloe and 14 species in the genus Pachypodium listed in the Appendices. Cacti included, there are well over 3,000 species of succulent plants covered by CITES, including minor the succulents Nolina interrata (Agavaceae), Lewisia serrata (Portulacaceae), three species of Agave (Agavaceae), all species of the Didieraceae family, three species in the genus Fouquieria (Fouquieriaceae), two species of the genus Dudleya (Crassulaceae), and all species in the genera Anacampseros (Portulacaceae) and Avonia (Portulacaceae).

IOS is a strong advocate of conservation and became the first plant organization to publish a Code of Conduct (Oldfield, 1990), including guidelines for field research, collection maintenance, and treatment of field-collected material, to which all members are requested to adhere. Many IOS members are actively engaged in international conservation organisations and agencies. IOS is co-operating with CITES directly and through the IUCN/SSC plant network (see other Cooperation Partners). In situ and ex situ conservation activities and related matters play an important role at IOS congresses. IOS, individual members, and associated experts have created and published official CITES checklists for fundamental species identification. These are updated on a regular basis by the CITES Nomenclature Committee.

In 1987, CITES 6th Conference of the Parties called for the development of a much needed nomenclature reference for the Cactaceae. The same year, IOS was asked by the CITES Plants Committee to produce a Checklist for the use of the CITES authorities internationally. The IOS Cactaceae Working Party, founded in 1984 to standardize the classification of cacti, developed the reference work. With the help of numerous advisers and collaborators, IOS member David Hunt compiled the work, and with support of Royal Botanical Garden Kew, the CITES Cactaceae Checklist was published in 1992. It was followed by a second edition in 1999, prepared by David Hunt and a global network of experts. The Kew/IOS Cactaceae database has been made available to the CITES Secretariat. The development of the database continues, aiming to cover all accepted and provisionally accepted species. On request of the CITES Plants Committee, the third edition is now in preparation for publication in 2010.

In 2001, Jonas Lüthy published The Cacti of CITES Appendix I. Leonard Newton and Gordon Rowley (Editor: Urs Eggli) compiled CITES Aloe and Pachypodium Checklist (2001), a reference for the names of Aloe and Pachypodium; Susan Carter and Urs Eggli presented The CITES Checklist of Succulent Euphorbia Taxa (Euphorbiaceae), Second Edition (2003), the reference to the names of succulent Euphorbias. All authors of these global standard references for succulent plants are long-standing members of IOS. In addition, a number of other succulent plant handbooks and illustrated dictionaries were generated by or in cooperation with IOS members for Cauduciform and Pachycaul Succulents, Pachypodium (Apocynaceae), Didiereaceae, Anacampseros, Avonia, Grahamia, and Cactaceae (see CITES Link).

CITES Succulent Plant Checklists:

Carter, S. and Eggli, U. 2003. The CITES Checklist of Succulent Euphorbia Taxa (Euphorbiaceae).
Second Edition. German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Bonn, Germany.

Hunt, D. R. 1999. CITES Cactaceae Checklist,
2nd ed. Royal Botanic Gardens. Kew. United Kingdom

Lüthy, J.M. 2001. The Cacti of CITES Appendix I.
CITES Management Authority of Switzerland. Bern, Switzerland.

Newton, L.E. and Rowley, G.D. (Eggli, U. Editor). 2001. CITES Aloe and Pachypodium Checklist.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom.

Lüthy. J.M. 2007. An Update and Supplement to the CITES Aloe and Pachypodium Checklist.
CITES Management Authority of Switzerland, Bern, Switzerland. PDF PDF-button

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Epithelantha micromeris, Big Bend National Park, Texas ©Boris O. Schlumpberger

Epithelantha micromeris
Big Bend National Park, Texas ©Boris O. Schlumpberger

Hoodia alstonii, RSA, Umdaus ©Joël Lodé

Hoodia alstonii
RSA, Umdaus ©Joël Lodé

Echinocereus dasyacanthus, USA, Northern Az. ©Denis Diagre

Echinocereus dasyacanthus
USA, Northern Az. ©Denis Diagre