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The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international treaty between governments.  Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). The text of the CITES Convention was finally agreed upon at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington, D.C., USA, on 3 March 1973, and then on 1 July 1975 CITES entered in force.  The CITES Convention is also known as the Washington Convention. 

CITES regulates and oversees international trade by according varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, or as wildlife products derived from them, including such items as exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines, fur coats, dried herbs and caviar.

Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation and to effectively combat illegal international wildlife trade, which is a major concern.

CITES is an international agreement to which States (countries) adhere voluntarily. Countries that have agreed to be bound by the Convention ( that have “joined” CITES) are known as Parties. CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – but 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.

As of August 2013, 178 countries are Parties to the CITES Convention. 

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