International Conservation
Reef Shark, © Ed Gullekson

The Importance of CITES

The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is the only treaty that regulates international trade in wildlife. The treaty was signed in Washington in 1975 and, to date, 175 countries have signed on to it.

CITES has three lists (called Appendices) that offer different levels of regulation. The Appendix I list prohibits commercial international trade, Appendix II allows international trade with regulations and scientific analysis for issuing the permits and Appendix III offers help to individual countries to keep track of trade in their species. Altogether, CITES lists around 37,000 species of wild animals and plants.

Defenders of Wildlife participates in CITES by helping countries make proposals to list species (or increase the level of protection) that need better conservation measures at the international level and to ensure that the necessary tools and implementation policies are in place for the survival of the listed species. We actively promote these proposals during CITES meetings to make sure they get enough votes to be accepted. We also challenge proposals that would diminish protections for species that still need them.

Defenders’ work with CITES has resulted in several important wins for wildlife, including making it illegal to trade parrots and other birds, preventing a proposal to roll back protections for the hawksbill sea turtle and—most recently in 2010—increasing protections for the Kaiser’s spotted newt, prohibiting trade of this critically endangered amphibian. Visit the Success Stories page for more wins.

More on International Conservation: Protecting Sharks »

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Sea Turtle, © Christina Albright-Mundy
Success Stories
April, 2013: Thanks to new regulations that Defenders proposed and worked hard to promote, Mexico is protecting vital sea turtle nesting habitat.
scalloped hammerhead, © Terry Goss 2008/Marine Photobank
Success Story
September 2014 - Five species of shark and two species of manta ray have officially gained international protection!
Scarlet macaw, © Maria Elena Sanchez
Success Story
July 2014 - After being wiped out from the region more than 50 years ago, scarlet macaws are once again flying free in the Gulf of Mexico!