Monday, February 21, 2011

C. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

C. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

It became apparent during the 1960s that one of the greatest threats to the survival of many species was the incredible amount of international trade in live plants and animals and in products derived from them. Trade in wildlife products is big business, estimated to gross between five and seventeen million dollars each year. Ivory, rhinoceros horn, tortoise shell jewelry and animal pelts are just a sampling of the products involved. In order to help prevent the continued depletion of wild animal and plant populations to satisfy the demands for trade, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was formed.

CITES is an international treaty that provides protection for wild animal and plant species in international trade. Final negotiations for the treaty were completed in 1973, but CITES did not come into force until 1975 after it was ratified by the United States and 9 other countries. Today 120 nations, including most major wildlife producing and consuming countries have become "parties" to the Convention. Becoming a party to CITES means that the countries have signed the treaty and have agreed to implement it in territories under their legal jurisdiction. To implement CITES, all parties are required to develop wildlife protection laws in their countries, and to establish a Management Authority to issue trade permits for wildlife products and a Scientific Authority to provide scientific expertise on the status of species considered for trade. Overall administration of CITES is through the The United Nations Environmental Program, a body of the United Nations.

CITES is designed to promote the conservation of endangered species while allowing trade in wildlife species that can withstand the pressures of trade. Under the Convention, there are three categories of protection. Species listed in Appendix I are threatened with extinction and are or may be affected by trade. Commercial trade in Appendix I species is strictly prohibited. Appendix II includes species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction but that may become threatened if their trade is not carefully regulated. Species listed in Appendix II may be traded commercially under certain conditions and with special permits. Appendix III includes species legally protected within the borders of a party nation that have been determined by that nation to need international trade control. As with Appendix II species, some trade in Appendix III species is allowed with special permits.

Currently, over 700 species are listed on Appendix I, including some of the most endangered plants and animals in the world. The great whales, the great apes, all sea turtles and rhinoceroses, elephants, most of the large cats and several species of catcti and orchids are among those listed in Appendix I. Among the more than 27,000 species included in Appendix II are all cetaceans, monkeys, parrots, reptiles, and orchids not listed in Appendix I, as well as many others.

In the United States, CITES is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which contains the officies of the U.S. Management Authority and the U.S. Scientific Authority. In addition, the Division of Law Enforcement enforces CITES by inspecting thousands of wildlife shipments that enter the United States each year.

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