International Conservation
Reef Shark, © Ed Gullekson

The Importance of CITES

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is one of the largest environmental agreements regulating the international trade in wildlife. Currently, CITES regulates more than 5,600 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants, and has 181 member states as of 2015, including the U.S.

CITES has three lists (called Appendices) that offer different levels of regulation: 

  • Appendix I prohibits commercial international trade – these species cannot be bought and sold. 
  • Appendix II allows international trade in these species only if a scientific analysis is done before issuing a permit.
  • Appendix III allows trade in these species but only with certificates to help track the rate of trade. 

Defenders of Wildlife participates in CITES by helping countries make proposals to list species or increase the level of protection of listed species by gathering scientific information and identifying at-risk species. 

We also work to make sure that once species are listed, countries have the information and resources they need to follow through on the new regulations. To assist them with that, we hold training workshops, often accompanied by the Defenders Identification Guides.

Defenders’ work with CITES has resulted in several important wins for wildlife, including trade bans on parrots and other birds, preventing a proposal to reduce protections for hawksbill sea turtles, banning trade in the Kaiser’s spotted newt and tree frogs, and gaining protection for five species of sharks, two species of mantas, and one species of freshwater sawfish.

More on International Conservation: Working With Fisheries »

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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!