The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is the most recognizable organization in the management of the exotic skin trade. CITES is an international agreement between the governments of nearly 200 member countries aiming to ensure that international trade in specimens and plants does not threaten their survival. The CITES resolution was adopted at the 1963 IUCN meeting and entered into force on July 1, 1975 in response to the steep decline of populations of various animal species due to trade.
CITES, based in Switzerland, works by subjecting trade in CITES-listed species to certain protections, a combination of licenses, permits, quotas and other rules designed to conserve the species’ survival in their various circumstances. One or more authority is responsible for managing the set of rules that apply to each specie (for example, a country’s wildlife agency) and one or more scientific authority is responsible for designing the policies that protect those species (for example, IUCN). CITES sets the minimum standard for the trade of each specie and then each member country can layer its own rules on top of that to protect their own priorities and account for its limitations.
Nearly 6,000 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants are protected by CITES. Depending on the degree of protection they need, CITES species are broken into three categories:
- Appendix I contains species threatened with extinction under which trade is only acceptable under extraordinary circumstances.
- Appendix II species are not as in danger but must be trade-controlled to prevent exploitation. This category includes about 1,400 animal species and 25,000 plant species.
- Appendix III fauna and flora are protected in at least one country, and so CITES countries participate in controlling its trade. There are about 270 animal species and 30 plant species listed under Appendix III.
CITES also issues re-export licenses for certain species under Appendix II and III. A re-export permit is needed if exporting specimens that were previously imported, whether as skins or finished goods. An example of this would be if skins are exported from USA to Italy, goods are manufactured from the skins in Italy and then those finished goods are re-exported to USA to be sold in stores.
To see how CITES regulations are applied in your country, you can consult your local management authority. For information specific to the US application of CITES rules, you can check out our previous blog posts on this topic.