Article by: The Forestry Department
What is CITES?
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The CITES convention came into force on July 1, 1975 and St. Lucia ratified this convention in 1982. Although St. Lucia is not significantly involved in wildlife trade we recognize the need to play our part in the global effort towards wildlife conservation.
Why is CITES Necessary?
Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, medicines etc.
Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.
Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.
St. Lucia as a member of CITES is obliged to not only monitor exports of its local species and the subsequent impacts on their populations, but must also monitor imports to ensure that wildlife entering the country have been legally obtained and collected in a way that does not threaten wild populations in the country of origin.
How does CITES work?
Every two years member countries of the convention come together to review the conservation status of wild plants and animals. This is called the conference of parties (COP). Where species are considered to be at potential risk of decline or extinction due to international trade a system of licensing is introduced to help monitor, regulate or temporarily halt trade. This licensing system remains in effect until the risk or threat to the species is no more.
Species at risk are placed into three (3) categories called appendices and differ according to the level of protection that the species is considered to require.
Appendix I: include species that are locally or globally classified as “endangered” or at “risk of extinction”. These species are usually rare or in decline and trade of such species is not permitted receiving full protection under the convention.
Appendix II: these species are not yet threatened by trade but may become so if trade is not regulated. Trading of these species is permitted only if they were legally obtained and trading is not harmful to the species survival.
Appendix III: species under this appendix may not be of global concern but may be of importance to one or more countries where trading is permitted only if legally obtained and the survival of the species is not threatened.