1. What is CITES and what species are listed in the CITES Appendices?
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. This environmental Convention provides the international legal framework and common procedural mechanisms for regulating international trade in wild animals and plants, including live and dead specimens (whole), parts (such as animal skins) and derivatives (such as food/medicine made from such animal and plants).
The aim of CITES is to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. All imports, exports, and re-exports of species covered by the Convention have to be authorized through a system of permits and certificates.
States (countries) join CITES voluntarily and those States that have agreed to join CITES are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on its Parties – in other words Parties have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws. Instead it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented nationally. There are around 29 500 plant species and 5 300 animal species covered by the provisions of CITES, and these are divided into three Appendices, depending on the degree to which they are threatened by trade:
More information on the Appendices can be found on the CITES website.
2. How can I identify a species?
An identification manual and a photo gallery of species listed in the CITES Appendices are available on the CITES website. National CITES Management and Scientific Authorities may be able to provide assistance with species identification, as well as museums of national history or botanic and zoological gardens.
The European Union and all European Union (EU) Member States are Parties to CITES and implement its provisions jointly through the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations (Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 as amended). There are four Annexes (A, B, C and D) to the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations: Annexes A, B and C largely correspond to Appendices I, II and III of CITES, but also contain some non CITES-listed species that are protected under EU internal legislation. Annex D, for which there is no equivalent in CITES, is often referred to as the "monitoring list". It contains species for which import levels are monitored to determine the level of trade and any potential threats to the species caused by trade.
The EU Wildlife Trade Regulations not only implement all the provisions of CITES (the text of the Convention) as well as a large number of recommendations adopted by the CITES Parties (CITES Resolutions), but they also go beyond the requirements of the Convention in some respects:
The EU Wildlife Trade Regulations have stricter import conditions than those imposed by CITES.
Import permits are not only required for species listed in Annex A, but also for species listed in Annex B. Import notifications are required for species listed in Annexes C and D.
Some species that are listed in Appendix II of CITES are listed in Annex A of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, and consequently such specimens have very strict requirements for trade (i.e. no commercial trade in most circumstances).
The EU Wildlife Trade Regulations have stricter provisions than CITES regarding the housing conditions and transport requirements for live specimens.
The EU Wildlife Trade Regulations regulate internal (domestic) trade as well as international trade, whereas CITES regulates international trade only. Commercial trade in Annex A specimens is generally prohibited, although exemptions can be granted on a case-by-case basis and authorised with the issuance of special certificates.
The EU Wildlife Trade Regulations authorise the EU Member States to suspend imports with regard to certain species and countries, even if trade is allowed under CITES.
Although the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations are directly applicable in all EU Member States, the necessary enforcement provisions (control and sanctions) as well as the appointment of the Management and Scientific Authorities must be implemented in each Member State through the enactment of national legislation. More detailed information on the difference between CITES and the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations can be found here (pdf 35KB).
4. How is the new EU Wildlife Trade Regulation different to the previous one?
The EU Wildlife Trade Regulations consist of Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 which was amended by Commission Regulation (EU) No 100/2008 in February 2008, Commission Regulation (EU) No 791/2012 and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 792/2012 in September 2012, and Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/56 of 15 January 2015. Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 replaced the old Commission Regulation (EC) No 1808/2001 and incorporated most of the amendments which were agreed at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP14). The amendment of Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 in September 2012 implemented certain Resolutions adopted at CoP15 and aimed to ensure greater harmonisation and efficiency in the implementation of Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 in the EU. Amendments were made, for example, to provisions relating to: conditions applying to the identification and marking of specimens; the control of personal and household effects within the EU; and the conditions under which "Annex A" specimens can be subject to commercial activities within the EU.
The most recent amendment of Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 in January 2015 implemented certain Resolutions adopted at CoP16 (3-14 March 2013) and introduced new requirements, notably to:
More detailed information about the new EU Wildlife Trade Regulation can be found in the Reference Guide to the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.
5. How do I know whether I need a permit to import or export wildlife specimens into or out of the European Union?
Import, export and re-export of any live animal or plant (or any part or derivative of an animal or plant) listed in the EU Wildlife Trade Regulation Annexes into or out of the EU requires a CITES permit or certificate. First find out whether a species is listed in these Annexes (this information is also available via the Species+ website of the United Nations Environment Programme -World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)).
You should also check with your national CITES Management Authority (see Question 8) who is in charge of administering the licensing system, as well as national coordination for the implementation of CITES, and will advise whether the species you are interested in needs a permit/certificate.More detailed information about permits can be found here.
6. Do I need permits to move an EU Wildlife Trade Regulation-listed species between European Union Member States?
Due to the establishment of the EU single market, there are no internal border controls in the EU and, generally, goods can be moved and traded freely inside the EU. Consequently, no permits or certificates are needed for the movement inside the EU of specimens of a species listed in Annexes B, C or D. However, specimens of species listed in Annex A are generally not allowed to be traded for commercial purposes and their movement inside the EU is also strictly controlled. Commercial trade in specimens of species listed in Annex B is allowed within the EU provided that the specimen was imported or acquired in accordance with relevant laws.
7. Are permits required to trade animals bred in captivity or for artificially propagated plants?
To qualify as an animal bred in captivity or as an artificially propagated plant, there are strict requirements which must be met. The national CITES Management Authority and the Scientific Authority can advise whether an animal/plant meets these definitions. Specimens of species listed in Annex A that were born and bred in captivity or were artificially propagated are treated as specimens of species listed in Annex B, meaning that they can be imported into, exported or re-exported from the EU providing that they have a certificate from the Management Authority confirming that the specimen was indeed bred in captivity or artificially propagated in accordance with the definition provided in the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. Internal trade within the EU of captive-bred specimens of animal species listed in Annex A requires an internal trade certificate, which is issued on a case-by-case basis. In contrast, artificially propagated specimens of plant species listed in Annex A are subject to a general exemption and no internal trade certificate is required for commercial activities involving such specimens within the EU.
More information is available here.
8. Where can I find contact details of the national agency responsible for the implementation of CITES/issuing permits?
The national agency in charge of implementing CITES in each country is called the Management Authority. The CITES website contains a section called ‘National contacts & information’ where contact details can be found for the CITES Management Authority (who issue permits & certificates), the CITES Scientific Authority (who advise the Management Authority on issuance of permits in relation to the status of the species) and enforcement authorities such as customs or police, for each CITES Party.
9. I want to buy a pet or a plant in the EU, how do I know what the requirements are?
Before you purchase your pet or plant, the first step is to check whether the species is listed in the Annexes of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. This can be done by looking at the Annexes (pdf 2,0MB) or via the Species+ website of the United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).
10. What do I need to do if I see a specimen advertised on the Internet which I wish to purchase?
To find out whether a species offered for sale on the Internet can legally be sold, the first step is to check whether the species is listed in the Annexes of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. This can be done by looking at the Annexes or via the Species+ website of the United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)www.speciesplus.net.
If the species is listed, trade restrictions and permit requirements apply. You should also check carefully where the seller is based as this will affect the documentation that is required (see Permits section of this website). For example:
For advice on document requirements for your country, including the documents the seller should provide to the buyer, you should contact your national CITES Management Authority. The CITES website (www.cites.org) contains a section called "National contacts & information", where contact details can be found for the national CITES Management Authorities. Before contacting your management authority, it is worthwhile asking the seller whether the species is of wild or captive-bred/artificially propagated origin, since there are different requirements for these two groups. Also bear in mind that in addition to trade-related requirements, there may be sanitary, veterinary, agricultural or other documentary requirements.
To find out more information on the Internet posting itself, you can contact the administrator of the website that is hosting the sale. Some websites, such as eBay, have a ban on sales of certain wildlife products such as ivory.Finally, it is important to exercise caution when buying CITES-listed specimens on the Internet (including on auction sites) as they may not be legal. By purchasing such specimens, you could be encouraging illegal and unsustainable trade and committing an offence yourself. Therefore be very careful – buy only from sites you can trust and that can prove the legality of their trade. Traders have been known to offer wildlife products under code names to avoid detection, for example ivory sold as "ox bone", while in many cases specimens offered on the Internet may be fake and the advert is merely an attempt to defraud buyers of their money. As with any sale of animals or plants: if in doubt, do not buy!
11. Do I need to take any special measures if I travel with a pet that is listed in the Annexes of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations?
Special certificates can be obtained if you wish to travel with a legally acquired pet animal of a species listed in Annexes A, B or C. These certificates are referred to as "personal ownership certificates" and can be used more than once, thereby avoiding the need to apply for a CITES permit each time an international border is crossed.
Where do I get documents from, and what conditions are there for issuance?
If your pet originates from within the European Union, the certificate is issued by the Management Authority of the Member State from which the specimen originates. If your pet originates from a country outside of the European Union, the Management Authority of the EU Member State that was the first country of destination in the EU for the specimen issues the personal ownership certificate, on the condition that equivalent documentation from the country of export has been provided by the holder to that Management Authority. Personal ownership certificates may only be issued for legally acquired live animals held for personal, non-commercial purposes.
All live animal specimens must be uniquely and permanently marked in accordance with Article 66 – Marking Methods of Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006, so that the authorities may verify that the animal covered by the personal ownership certificate corresponds to the animal being imported or exported. The animal must also be registered by the certificate-issuing authority.
Personal ownership certificates shall cease to be valid if the specimen is sold, lost, or stolen or if ownership of the specimen is otherwise transferred. The certificate is also no longer valid if the animal has died, escaped or been released to the wild.
What happens if I travel with a pet within the EU?
You do not need a permit or certificate to travel within the EU with a pet that is a species listed in the Annexes. The only exemption is if you have a pet of an Annex A-listed species which is not of captive-bred origin, for which the CITES Management Authority has prescribed in the import permit or relevant certificate a location at which it is to be kept. In those cases you need a special certificate from the Management Authority of the country in which the specimen is located that allows you to move the animal from the prescribed location to another location.
What happens if I travel with a pet out of the EU and then back into the EU, e.g. if I go on holiday?
Provided that the animal covered by this certificate is accompanied by its legal owner, the personal ownership certificate may be used as an import permit or as an export permit or re-export certificate as long as the country of destination so agrees.
Some additional national measures may apply for certain species. In addition, owners should check whether there are other requirements for travelling with a pet, such as legal veterinary requirements and animal health requirements.
12. How can I know what souvenirs I can buy when I am on holiday, and which are illegal or need a permit?
When you are on holiday, think twice before you buy souvenirs made from wildlife products, such as animal skins, tortoise shell, teeth, feathers or coral – they could be illegal. CITES regulates international trade in threatened species, as well as products and derivatives thereof, and the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations regulate international trade into and from the EU as well as internal trade within the EU. If the souvenir you are interested in is made from a species listed in Annex A or B of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, you may need a permit or certificate to bring it home. The Management Authority of the country where you are on holiday should be able to advise you on permit requirements. The CITES website contains a section called ‘National contacts & information’ where contact details can be found for the CITES Management Authorities (who issue permits), CITES Scientific Authorities (who advise the Management Authorities on the effects of trade on the status of the species) and enforcement authorities such as Customs or police.
Countries also have national legislation which protects some species of animals and plants. Therefore, the purchase of wildlife souvenirs is not simply a matter of whether the species is regulated in international trade, as the specimen may also be protected under national law, but not regulated under CITES or the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.
This website also contains information and advice for tourists and travellers, in the section called Wildlife Souvenirs Guide. This includes information such as the type of wildlife souvenir that will require a permit, and those that you should avoid buying because international trade is banned for these species.
13. What are the implications of trade controls for the trade in elephant ivory?
The Asian Elephant Elephas maximus is listed in Appendix I of CITES and Annex A of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, therefore all commercial trade in specimens of this species is prohibited (other than in exceptional circumstances). The African Elephant Loxodonta africana is also listed in Appendix I of CITES and Annex A of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, with the exception of populations in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe: these populations are listed in Appendix II/Annex B and very limited commercial trade is permitted.
A brief overview of the restrictions on trade in elephant ivory/ivory products is provided below. Trade in elephant ivory is strictly controlled in the EU, with certain Member States also implementing stricter national measures regulating this trade. Therefore if you are considering importing or exporting elephant ivory specimens into or out of the EU, or moving/trading such specimens within the EU, it is strongly recommended that you consult your national CITES Management Authority for advice on the legality of such trade and documentation requirements. The CITES website (www.cites.org) contains a section called "National contacts & information", where contact details can be found for the national CITES Management Authorities.
As a general rule, the commercial trade in elephant ivory is prohibited under international law. However, trade may be allowed in exceptional circumstances, for example:
With regard to the trade in ivory for non-commercial purposes:
14. What do the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations say about hunting trophies?
Hunting trophies that are introduced into the European Union for non-commercial purposes can be considered "personal or household effects" under the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. As a result, their trade may be subject to less strict controls and permit requirements. Generally, personal or household effects must be contained in your personal luggage or be part of your personal property when transferring your normal place of residence to or from the EU (therefore not including goods purchased over the Internet, mail or phone). However, hunting trophies are treated as a special case and may be introduced into the EU at a later date, i.e. after you have travelled back to the EU.
Generally, for the import of a hunting trophy from an Annex B-listed specimen for non-commercial purposes into the EU, only an export permit needs to be issued. However, stricter controls apply to the first import of hunting trophies from certain Annex B-listed species/populations due to concerns as to the sustainability of trade in these hunting trophies or for which there are indications of significant illegal trade. The species/populations to which these stricter controls apply are those listed in Annex XIII to Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006, currently the: (i) Southern White Rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum simum, (ii) Common Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius, (iii) African Elephant Loxodonta africana, (iv) Argali Sheep Ovis ammon, (v) Lion Panthera leo,and (vi) Polar Bear Ursus maritimus. In such cases, both an import permit and an export permit are required for the first import of hunting trophy specimens into the EU.
It is important to note that, if you are an EU resident and wish to introduce an Annex A-listed specimen, such as a hunting trophy, into the EU for the first time, you would need both export and import permits and strict criteria for issuing these would need to be fulfilled. In addition, it is important to bear in mind that:
15. What do I need to know about the trade in caviar?
Caviar is produced from eggs of sturgeon and paddlefish species that belong to the Acipenseriformes order. There are 27 species of Acipenseriformes, including 25 sturgeon species and 2 paddlefish species. All are listed in CITES Appendix II and in Annex B of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, with the exception of the Shortnose Sturgeon Acipenser brevirostrum and Common Sturgeon Acipenser sturio which are listed in Appendix I/Annex A. However it is mainly the Eurasian species from which significant quantities of caviar are produced and found in international trade, for example sturgeons from the Caspian basin, the Russian Sturgeon Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, and Beluga Huso huso.
Import and export permits are required for the commercial trade in caviar into and out of the EU. For caviar from species listed in Annex A of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, commercial trade is generally prohibited; however, caviar sourced from aquaculture for these species is treated as if it were sourced from species listed in Annex B.
A maximum of 125 grams of caviar from Annex B-listed sturgeon species may be brought into or taken out of the EU as "personal or household effects", meaning that no documents are required for (re-)introduction or (re-)export to/from the EU. Certain conditions must, however, be met and containers must be individually labelled in accordance with relevant legislation (see Marking and Labelling section of this website).
In addition to the requirements of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, there are also the following restrictions on the trade in caviar:
Further information on the trade in caviar may be found in the TRAFFIC publications available on this website.
16. What are the requirements if I travel with a musical instrument made from a species listed in the Annexes to the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations?
At CITES CoP16 in March 2013, a new Resolution was adopted to simplify the non-commercial cross-border movement of musical instruments containing CITES-listed species. This Resolution was implemented into EU law through an amendment to Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006, which came into force in February 2015.
The new rules aim to make it easier for musicians to cross international borders with their musical instruments for non-commercial purposes. Such purposes include (but are not limited to) personal use, performance, production (recordings), broadcast, teaching, display and competition.
Under the new rules, musicians travelling with an instrument made from a species listed in Annex A (only for instruments acquired before the inclusion of the species in the CITES Appendices), B or C of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations for non-commercial purposes, can apply for a "musical instrument certificate". A musical instrument certificate can be used more than once, providing that all the required conditions are met. Therefore, it is not necessary to apply for CITES permits each time an international border is crossed.
Where do I get documents from and what conditions are there for issuance?
Applicants should apply to the Management Authority in their EU Member State of usual residence. Musical instrument certificates may be used for the non-commercial cross-border movements of musical instruments, where the specimen used in the manufacture of the musical instrument concerned has been legally acquired.
A specimen which is covered by a musical instrument certificate must be registered by the certificate-issuing Management Authority and appropriately identified. The description of the instrument should allow the competent authority to verify that the certificate corresponds to the specimen being imported or exported, and should include elements such as the manufacturer’s name, the serial number or other means of identification such as photographs.
A specimen covered by a musical instrument certificate may not be sold or possession of it transferred whilst outside the applicant’s State of usual residence. Musical instrument certificates shall cease to be valid if the instrument is sold, lost, destroyed or stolen or if ownership of the specimen is otherwise transferred.
Musical instrument certificates cannot be used for specimens of species listed in Annex A that were acquired after the species was included in the CITES Appendices.
What happens if I travel with a musical instrument within the EU?
You do not need a permit or certificate to travel within the EU with a musical instrument that is made from a species listed in the Annexes.
What happens if I travel with a musical instrument out of the EU and then back into the EU?
Provided that the instrument is covered by a musical instrument certificate, this may be used as an import permit, export permit or re-export certificate.
What if I have a musical instrument certificate that was issued by a third (non-EU) country?Musical instruments covered by musical instrument certificates issued by third countries may be introduced into the EU, or re-exported from the EU, without requiring the presentation of an import permit or (re-)export document, provided that the musical instrument certificate was issued by the third country under similar conditions to those described above.
17. What happens if I don’t get the required permit or certificate?
Moving a specimen of a species listed in the Annexes of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations into, out of or within the EU without the appropriate paperwork could result in seizure and permanent confiscation of the specimen. You may also face prosecution resulting in a financial and/or other penalty. It is therefore strongly recommended that you seek advice from your national CITES Management Authority well in advance of when the specimen is moved. Contact details for national CITES Management Authorities may be found in the "National contacts & information" section of the CITES website.
18. I have seen specimens for sale which seem suspicious. What should I do?
First you need to check whether the species is listed in the Annexes of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. This can be done by looking at the Annexes or via the Species+ website of the United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). If the species is listed, trade restrictions and permit requirements apply (for further details, see the Permits section of this website).
19. How do I find information on endangered species?
A species can be considered to be endangered either at the global, regional, national or population level. The most widely recognised classification for globally endangered species is the Red List of Threatened Species produced by IUCN – The International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC) has for four decades been assessing the conservation status of species, subspecies, varieties and even selected sub-populations on a global scale in order to highlight taxa threatened with extinction, and therefore promote their conservation. The Red List of Threatened Species classifies species into different categories, such as Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable and Lower Risk. It is important to remember that unsustainable trade is only one of many factors that may threaten species. Hence, CITES does not cover all "threatened" species, only those which are threatened or potentially threatened by international trade. Additional information on species regulated by CITES can be found on the CITES website or via the Species+ website of the United Nations Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).
20. If a species is endangered then why allow trade? Should trade not simply be banned to protect the species?
CITES and related wildlife trade regulations, such as the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, were put in place to regulate trade within sustainable levels, in order to prevent species becoming extinct due to overexploitation. This applies to both species which are known to be threatened with extinction, as well as species which, although not necessarily now threatened with extinction, may become so unless trade is strictly regulated.
Species listed in Annex A of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations include those that are, for the most part, under immediate threat of extinction. "Trade" in wild specimens of Annex A-listed species is usually allowed only in exceptional circumstances, such as for educational, scientific or conservation purposes. Trade for primarily commercial purposes is not allowed. Exemptions are in place for captive-bred or artificially propagated specimens of these species.
However, the vast majority of trade occurs in species listed in Annex B of the Regulations, which are not currently threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is strictly regulated. Regulating trade in these species provides a means of monitoring trade to make sure that it is conducted at sustainable levels. Trade can generate income for local communities and provide funds for governments to ensure that the species is not over-exploited. Conversely, banning all trade in these species will not necessarily diminish demand and may even lead to trade going "underground" and increasing illegal trade. Once this happens, there is no means of regulating or monitoring the trade and the species may become even more threatened.
These trade regulations therefore are not just a means to stop international trade when other conservation efforts have failed. They are also vital tools to assist countries in managing their natural resources so that populations of species do not reach the point where trade bans could be the only option left. Sustainable trade can itself contribute to the survival of a species by providing value and therefore economic incentives to local people and governments, which can help to ensure conservation of the species.
21. How can I find trade data on a particular CITES-listed species?
If you are looking for import, export or re-export data for a species that is listed in the CITES Appendices, you can search the UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database. Data can be extracted from this database by species, year, export and import countries, terms (i.e. product type), source of specimen in trade, and purpose of the trade transaction. UNEP-WCMC has also posted a Guide to Interpreting Outputs from the UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database on this website, which will help interpret the data.
To find information on CITES-listed species, see also the Trade Information Query Tool, run by UNEP-WCMC. This is a useful tool that can provide information about CITES quotas, other CITES restrictions, EU trade suspensions and other decisions (Positive or Negative Opinions) regarding species listed in the Annexes.
22. Where can I find information on national/global trends in wildlife trade?
The CITES Trade Data Dashboards provide an interactive, dynamic way of viewing the trade data submitted by CITES Parties in their annual reports to the Convention. The Global Dashboard allows you to find information on global trade trends by taxonomic group while the National Dashboard displays trade data by country or region.