Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Law and Legal Definition

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES ) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants do not threaten their survival. CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of the members of IUCN. CITES came into force on 1 July, 1975. It is also known as the Washington Convention.

Because there is international trade in wild animals and plants specimen, the efforts to regulate it and safeguard certain species from over-exploitation require international cooperation. CITES was signed to bring about such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 33,000 species of animals and plants. Plants and animals are protected irrespective of whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.

CITES is an international agreement, and states (countries) may or may not sign the agreement. States that have agreed to be bound by CITES are known as parties. CITES is legally binding on these parties.

CITES works by regulating international trade of the specimen of selected species. These select species are the species listed by CITES in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need. Import, export, re-export and introduction of the covered species are authorized through a licensing system.

The species covered in Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction but whose trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival comes under Appendix II. Appendix III includes species that are protected in at least one country.