The UN Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) is an international agreement between 183 governments that aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES regulations apply to live animals and plants, as well as body parts such as elephant tusk ivory and seal fur.
International trade is one of the primary forces driving hundreds of species around the world to extinction. Demand inevitably outstrips supply and millions of animals suffer terribly. HSI lobbies Australia and other relevant governments to seek CITES protection for the species we identify as being at risk from international trade.
Many of the species HSI has asked governments to nominate have gone on to be successfully listed and now enjoy the benefits of CITES protection. Most recently this has included many species of shark. We also work hard to lobby governments not to allow CITES protection to be weakened for species such as turtles, tigers, elephants and whales.
HSI lobbies strongly on CITES issues by sending a team of campaigners to meetings and will very often have a position on the Australian Government delegation to lend our expertise in wildlife protection and ensure the delegation maintains a strong conservation position.
HSI is also a very active member of the Species Survival Network, a coalition of more than 80 international and national conservation, environment and animal welfare organisations that work together to secure CITES protection for species threatened by wildlife trade. HSI co-chairs its Shark Working Group and in Australia we are the SSN Regional Bureau for Oceania.
Species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices.
Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction and prohibits international trade in all their parts.
Appendix II allows for controlled trade and is intended for species whose survival is not yet threatened but may become so if trade continues without careful control.
Appendix III is for species that may be subject to trade regulation by any one party to the convention while not listed by all parties on Appendix I or II.
There are also provisions for listing species in the appendices because they ‘look like' listed species and need to be listed to help with implementation.
The meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to CITES is held every two to three years to discuss new proposals for animals and plants to be added or removed the appendices. Specialist meetings of the Plant and Animal Committees within the Convention take place between these major conferences.
Image: HSI supporter Sandy Kelly