citesbanner2For nearly 20 years, the staff of The Humane Society of Canada have actively participated in the administration and enforcement of CITES, an United Nations treaty to which 175 nations, including Canada (which was a founding member) are signatories. CITES stands for the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species and is the most important wildlife treaty in the world.

The Humane Society of Canada has forged a strategic partnership with and is a member of the Species Survival Network (SSN), an international coalition of more than 80 international NGO's representing millions of people around the world committed to the promotion, enhancement and enforcement of CITES.

The 18th Conference of the Parties takes place in August 2019 in Geneva, Switzerlad. The SSN issues position statements in regards to different endangered animals that might be affected by trade. You can read the position statements here.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (ISSD) is a non-profit Canadian organization. Each day they publish the Earth Negotiations Bulletin - a summary of the day's events at the conference. You can read the daily bulletins here.

Read what's happening at CITES in the news


According to INTERPOL, drugs, weapons and endangered species are the three most illegally traded commodities in the world. INTERPOL estimates that the global illegal trade in endangered species is worth more than $20 billion dollars a year and is steadily growing. The international commercial wildlife trade is worth billions of dollars annually and has been responsible for the decline of wild populations of a number of species of animals and plants. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty was first signed in 1973 in order to protect certain species of wild fauna and flora against over-exploitation through commercial trade. CITES first entered into force on 9 July 1975.

CITES provides three levels of protection for species in international commercial trade.

CITES Appendix I

Includes those species that are threatened with extinction and that are or may be affected by international commercial trade. These species may not be traded internationally for primarily commercial purposes. However, such species may be exported and imported for non-commercial purposes. Examples of species on CITES Appendix I are tigers, Asian elephants, chimpanzees, humpback whales, sun bears, scarlet macaws, sea turtles, Brazilian rosewood, giant tropical pitcher plants, and Asian tropical lady's slipper orchids.

CITES Appendix II

Includes those species that, although not necessarily threatened with extinction, may become so unless trade is strictly regulated in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. Species also may be listed on Appendix II if their parts or products cannot be readily distinguished from those of other species listed on CITES Appendix I or II. International commercial trade in Appendix II species is allowed, but is strictly controlled. Parties may only grant a permit to export such species after it has determined that the export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. Examples of species listed on Appendix II are American black bears, southern fur seals, Hartmann's mountain zebra, toco toucans, iguanas, Pacific Coast mahogany, triangle palm, and cyclamens.

CITES Appendix III

Includes those species that any Party has identified as being subject to regulation of exploitation within its jurisdiction and as needing the cooperation of other Parties to monitor international trade in the species. Such cooperation is achieved primarily by the issuance of export permits by a state which has included the species in Appendix III (these may be granted only if the specimen was not obtained in contravention of the laws of the exporting Party) and by the issuance of certificates of origin by other states that export Appendix III species. Examples of species listed on Appendix III and the countries that listed them are two-toed sloths (Costa Rica), African civets (Botswana), African waxbill (Ghana), and bigleaf mahogany (Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico)

A CITES export permit for any live specimen of a species listed on any CITES Appendix may be granted only when the Management Authority of the exporting Party is satisfied that it will be prepared and shipped so as to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health, or cruel treatment.

CITES Parties are expected to implement and enforce the treaty's provisions through domestic legislation. Each Party must establish a CITES Management Authority to issue import and export permits, to monitor trade in CITES species, and to compile annual trade reports, and a CITES Scientific Authority to provide scientific expertise on import and export decisions. Fundamental to this approach is the use of precaution in cases of uncertainty: Trade should not be allowed unless there are sufficient information and safeguards to ensure that a species is protected from over-utilization.

The Parties consider and vote on proposals to add or delete species from Appendices I and II at their biennial (or triennial) meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COPs). Parties may unilaterally add species to Appendix III at any time.

CITES COPs also provide an opportunity for Parties to consider and vote on resolutions that interpret the language of the treaty. For example, the Parties have adopted resolutions providing criteria for listing species on the CITES Appendices, a mechanism for reviewing the trade in Appendix II species to ensure that it is not detrimental to the survival of species, and a procedure for approving and registering operations that captive breed or ranch for commercial purposes species listed on CITES Appendix I.

Three CITES Committees--the Standing, Animals, and Plants Committees--each composed of Party representatives from six geographic regions [Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America], are active between COPs.

View a List of Common Acronyms in CITES and SSN Documents here

This book presents the provisions of the Convention and relevant Resolutions and Decisions in an accessible way as well as provides explanations and comments to facilitate an understanding of the Convention and of how it should be implemented.