What is CITES?
“CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.”
(Definition from CITES website)
The purpose of CITES is to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of any plant or animal. Approximately 35,000 species fall under the CITES umbrella of protection, of which approximately 5,600 are animals. Delegates from member nations discuss the proposed species and then vote whether they would like to place the species in one of three appendices. Each appendix reflects a different level of endangerment and suggests sanctions that should be considered for animals in that category.
How CITES works?
Appropriate appendix levels for proposed species are decided at the Conference of the Parties (CoP), held approximately every three years. At this meeting, flora and fauna can be added to appendices, promoted, demoted or deleted. The category in which the species is placed determines the international protection it is afforded.
Member countries of the treaty are bound to abide by the laws created by the CITES consensus. A common misunderstanding is that CITES is a conservation meeting. While national and international NGOs may apply to participate, voting members are delegates sent by their countries to represent the national interests of that member country. If the animal or plant being proposed for sanctions represents a high revenue stream, or if the specimen is heavily imported into the member country, those countries may instruct their delegates to vote against protective sanctions.
Unfortunately, some nations are refusing to accept the terms of this international mandate.