The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international treaty to prevent species from becoming endangered or extinct because of international trade. Under this treaty, countries work together to regulate the international trade of animal and plant species and ensure that this trade is not detrimental to the survival of wild populations. Any trade in protected plant and animal species should be sustainable, based on sound biological understanding and principles.

A Brief History

In the early 1960s, international discussion began focusing on the rate at which the world’s wild animals and plants were being threatened by unregulated international trade. The Convention was drafted as the result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Nairobi, Kenya. The text of the Convention  was agreed upon at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington D.C., on March 3rd 1973. Just over 2 years later, on July 1st 1975, CITES entered into force.

Today, 182 countries and the European Union implement CITES, which accords varying degrees of protection to over 35,000 species of animals and plants.

To learn more about the history of CITES, read interviews with Marshall Jones pdf and Lee Talbot pdf, conservationists who have been with CITES since its creation in 1973. You can also read 40 Years of CITES at a Glance pdf, a historical map outlining the many successes made at meetings of the Conference of the Parties (CoPs) over the last 40 years. Both articles were recently published in the Winter 2013 issue of FWS News. To read more stories highlighted in this issue, visit our Articles page.

Banner Credits: Cacti background: Frank Kohn/USFWS; Alligator: USFWS; Primate: Vanessa Woods; Pink Lady's Slipper orchid: Thomas Barnes/University of Kentucky; Paddlefish: Tennessee Aquarium