It’s a CITES Celebration

It’s a CITES Celebration

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In March of 2023, the world had something to celebrate. March 3rd marked the 10th birthday of World Wildlife Day and the 50th birthday of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). 

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland spoke at the World Wildlife Day and CITES’s 50th anniversary that was held at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

International Collaboration 

CITES is an international treaty managed and enforced by 184 Parties (183 countries and the European Union) to ensure that the international trade in plants and animals does not threaten their survival in the wild. In the United States, it is enforced under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the Federal Government’s lead agency tasked with implementing the treaty. 

Over the last half century, CITES and the ESA have been champions for thousands of wild animals and plants and there is much hope as we move into the next 50 years.  

With the CITES Secretariat, the USFWS co-hosted the Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation event to recognize the importance of CITES, working with partners to conserve wild species and their habitats, and engaging youth. 

During the event, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said, “We can honor CITES’ 50th anniversary by keeping the next 50 years in mind because we have an obligation to our world. Together, we can build a future in which we respect nature, restore balance to our environments, and value every living creature on this planet. That’s the way I was raised. My parents and grandparents taught me how valuable nature is to our survival and to our spirits. Without nature, we have nothing.” 

Christy Plott, Louisiana Alligator Advisory Council, shared the successful recovery of the American alligator. Its protection under CITES and the Endangered Species Act helped the species rebound and brought benefits to the local economy as well as wetland protection.

Partners are Imperative to Wildlife Conservation 

Secretary Haaland also mentioned the success of the American alligator. To further this message, Christy Plott of the Louisiana American Alligator Council, explained how the partnership between government, science, and industry is thriving thanks to CITES and the ESA; therefore, the American alligator is thriving.

CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero provided opening remarks and served as the master of ceremonies throughout the event.

The proof is in the numbers: in 1960, the number of wild animals was less than 100,000 - today there are 5 to 6 million! Not only is the American alligator thriving, so are the humans who live with and trade in alligator products.  From being one of the first species protected under CITES, to being delisted from the ESA, and the successful public-private partnerships, it is truly an achievement to be emulated. 

Forward to the Next 50 Years 

The CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero, announced the creation and implementation of its Youth Network by stating, “I have never been more inspired than working with young people. We have to listen to their voices, and we have to include them in them in the conversation. To do this, at CITES, we have just launched our Youth Network...The parties, partners, and youth make me optimistic for the next 50 years.”  

Representatives of CITES’s Youth Network, Hui Min Steffi Tan, from Singapore and Nabila Norshuhadah Binti Mohd Hazzrol, from Malaysia shared their conservation stories and ideas for future conservation work.

The importance of youth to conservation cannot be stressed enough. In close collaboration with our partners, the USFWS is making strides to ensure that the world’s natural resources will be available and abundant for future generations; but it will be up to the next generation of conservationists to continue this work. 

And the future is in good hands. Through all of the speakers’ remarks, film shorts from Jackson Wild, International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) international youth art contest, and a live performance from 60 local Washington D.C. elementary students, the future of conservation was shown to be incredibly positive and encouraging.  

On behalf of the USFWS, its International Affairs Program wishes you a wonderful World Wildlife Day and happy 50th birthday to CITES. We thank our partners, including you, for working on behalf of species who cannot thank you themselves. 

2023’s World Wildlife Day and CITES’s 50th anniversary event may be watched here and includes the full list of partners who contributed to the program. 

More information on how you can help protect and sustain fish, wildlife, and plants may be found on our website, and you can connect with us via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn Flickr, and YouTube

Examples of IFAW’s youth art contest entries were displayed throughout the National Geographic Society’s headquarters. (The Service and CITES Secretariat thank IFAW for its contribution of refreshments and the National Geographic Society for the use of its building.)


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International conservation