Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild


The United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES – pronounced sigh-tees):

  • aims to ensure that international trade in species of animals and plants does not threaten their survival
  • is an international treaty between governments
  • has been signed by 179 countries, or ‘Parties’
  • is legally binding

International wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. Since this trade crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation in order to ensure the survival of species at risk from over exploitation.


The international trade in more than 30,000 different species of mammal, bird, fish, reptile, amphibian, insect and plant is governed by CITES. These species are listed under one of three ‘Appendices’:

  • Appendix I includes species that are threatened with extinction and that are or may be affected by international trade. Commercial international trade in species listed on Appendix I is prohibited. Examples include Asian elephant, cheetah and all tiger species.
  • Appendix II includes species that, although not necessarily threatened with extinction, may become so unless trade is strictly regulated. Commercial international trade in Appendix II species is permitted, but is subject to strict controls. Examples include the common hippo, pangolin and African chameleon.
  • Listing on Appendix III is voluntary and not legally-binding. It includes species for which a Party requires the cooperation of the others in the control of trade.

Conference of the Parties

Every 3 years the member countries of CITES meet to review the impact of international trade on various species at a Conference of the Parties (CoP), making changes to their protection and to how the Convention operates. The next CoP is in 2016.

Standing Committee

CITES Parties also hold annual Standing Committee (SC) meetings in Geneva (Switzerland). The members of the SC are 32 Parties representing each of the six CITES regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Central & South America and the Caribbean, and Oceania). The SC provides guidance to the Secretariat on the implementation of the Convention and oversees the management of the Secretariat's budget. Where required it also coordinates and oversees the work of other committees and working groups, carries out tasks assigned to it by the Conference of Parties (CoP) and drafts Resolutions for consideration by the CoP. The membership of the SC is reviewed at each CoP meeting.

Born Free and CITES

Born Free has engaged in CITES since 1989, when we helped secure the international ban on international trade in elephant ivory. Together with other organisations, we have continued to make significant efforts to improve the accountability of the Convention and the participation of NGOs* and other representatives of civil society. There is much more to do but our investment over more than 20 years has helped hold the policies of CITES and the decisions made by governments concerning protection of wild animal and plant species, to account.

*Non Governmental Organisations

Born Free Ivory CITES Reports

Stop the Clock - 2000 - pdf 118KB

The Tip of the Tusk - 2004 - pdf 232KB

Ivory Report - 2006 - pdf 398KB

Ivory Report - 2007 - pdf 756KB


See for recent news about the ivory trade and what you can do to help

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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