Image of text based logo for CITES Cop18 arranged to look like an elephantZSL will be at the 18th CITES CoP. Find out how we are working to support wildlife at this important global conservation event.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, is a global agreement between governments to control international trade in threatened species.

It was first signed by 21 countries in 1973 in response to increasing recognition that international trade was having significant impacts on some wild animals and plants. It is the only legally binding international agreement supporting species conservation.

Over 40 years later, CITES has proven to be a key tool supporting international conservation. There are now 183 member countries (known within CITES as Parties) with over 35,000 species listed and regulated. Species are listed on three categories with different levels of protection:

  • Appendix I: The most endangered plants and animals, such as tigers and gorillas. All trade in these species is banned, except in rare cases such as scientific research.
  • Appendix II: This contains species like lions and many corals that are not yet threatened with extinction but which could become threatened if unregulated trade were allowed. Also included are what are referred to as “look-alike” species that have similar physical characteristics to species on the protected list and may make enforcement challenging. Plants and animals in this category can be traded internationally under strict rules.
  • Appendix III: Species whose trade is only regulated within a given country can be placed on Appendix III at a countries request if that country requires cooperation from others to help prevent illegal trade.

The operations of the Convention are supported and monitored by the CITES Secretariat, based in Geneva who also assist Parties in complying with their obligations under the convention.  

Every three years Parties come together, at the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP), to decide on species protection listing and vote on resolutions and decisions that affect any aspect of trade in endangered species.

Over the years CITES has expanded its role to address wider matters linked to illegal wildlife trade issues. CITES brings together law enforcement officers from wildlife departments, parks authorities, enforcement agencies such as customs and police to combat illegal wildlife trade.

Organisations like ZSL also play a role as observers; providing technical advice to Parties and the CITES Secretariat and helping shape policies and decisions.

After the tragic events in Sri Lanka earlier in the year the 18th CITES CoP was rescheduled and is now being held in Geneva between 17 to 28 August. Representatives from all the relevant stakeholders will be gathering to discuss issues affecting traded species and illegal wildlife trade.

ZSL will be pushing for measures that; take an evidence based approach to decision making; strengthen protection for species adversely affected by trade; reinforcing capacity for effective implementation of the Convention; and supporting proposals that address wildlife crime and its impacts on people and wildlife.
Key outcomes that ZSL will be working for at the CoP:

  • Improved protection for short and long fin mako sharks and for all Guitarfish spp. and Wedgefish spp. through listing in Appendix 2
  • Continuation of the ban of international ivory trade
  • Maintained support for the closure of all domestic markets for ivory and further study into domestic markets for other species where international trade is predominantly illegal
  • Improved protection for threatened reptile species including the Vietnamese box turtle and all Chinese and Vietnamese species of Leopard Geckoes
  • Better monitoring and improved and effective measures to reduce the impact of illegal trade on cheetahs and lions
  • Measures to ensure trade in all anguillid eels is better controlled, improving understanding of the trade
  • Better framework and mechanisms for demand reduction programmes

Download a summary of ZSL recommendations for CITES COP

PDF icon ZSL CITES positions for COP18 (2.24 MB)