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CITES, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

CITES, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is an international agreement between Governments with currently 166 member countries. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). The text of the Convention was finally agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington DC., United States of America, on March 3, 1973, and on July 1, 1975 CITES entered in force.

Appendix I lists species threatened with extinction and CITES generally prohibits commercial international trade in these specimens. However, trade may be allowed only under exceptional circumstances, e.g. for scientific research. Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled and these species can be traded commercially only if trade does not harm their survival.

CITES is an international agreement to which States (countries) adhere voluntarily. States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention "joined" CITES and are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties - in other words they have to implement the Convention, it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to make sure that CITES is implemented at the national level.

It is extremely important to note that not one species protected by CITES has become extinct as a result of trade since the convention entered into force and, for many years, CITES has been among the largest conservation agreements in existence, with now 166 parties supporting the Convention.

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