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Wildlife Trade (Illegal)

Monitoring And Regulating The International Trade In Endangered Species

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, often referred to by its acronym CITES, is a treaty that since 1973 has committed 145 signatory nations to preventing or controlling the international trade of endangered species. CITES was established in 1973 under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The goal of CITES is to monitor and regulate the international trade in endangered species. For these purposes, the conservation status of species (that is, as being endangered, vulnerable, or rare) is designated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The actual international trade of species-at-risk is monitored by the "Traffic" network of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the IUCN. The headquarters of CITES, IUCN, and WWF are all located in Switzerland. In addition, the World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC), located in England, publishes a series of so-called "red books" that summarize the status and commerce of about 60,000 species of plants and 2,000 of animals.

CITES and its partners regulate or monitor the international trade of about 639 species of mammals, 1,557 birds, 464 reptiles, 81 amphibians, 36 fish, 2,070 invertebrates, and 25,660 plants. In most of these cases, the international trade is only monitored. However, in 821 cases involving species threatened with extinction, any international trade is banned. A few examples of species for which trade is not allowed include endangered hyacinth macaws, rhinoceroses, tigers, sea turtles, and certain rare orchids.

The United States is a member of CITES. Some of its responsibilities under the treaty are to monitor and report on its international trade of all species dealt with by WCMC. The United States also has its own legislation governing the domestic trade in endangered species: the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The Fish and Wildlife Service has the responsibility of monitoring and policing any illegal trade in wildlife, both domestic and international.



Blair, C.B. Endangered Species: Must They Disappear? Information Plus Publishers, 1996.

Fitzgerald, S. International Wildlife Trade: Whose Business Is It? World Wildlife Fund, 1990.

Henley, G. International Wildlife Trade: A CITES Sourcebook. Island Press, 1994.


Li, Y.M. "Illegal Wildlife Trade In The Himalayan Region Of China." Biodiversity and Conservation 9, no. 7 (2000): 901-918.

Martin, E. "Wildlife for Sale." Biologist 47, no. 1 (2001): 27-30.

"Profile: Ian Redmond: An 11th-Hour Rescue for Great Apes?" Science 297 no. 5590 (2002): 2203.


United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 1849 C St., NW, Washington, DC 20240. [cited 2003]. <http://www.fws.org>.

World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC). 219 Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0DL, United Kingdom. [cited 2003]. <http://www.wcmc.org.uk>.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Avenue du Mont-Blanc, CH-1196, Gland, Switzerland. [cited 2003]. <http://www.panda.org>.

Bill Freedman


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Endangered species

—A species that is in great risk of extinction, meaning it would no longer live anywhere on Earth.

Wildlife trade

—The commerce in wild-caught animals and plants, occurring globally.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Well-being to Jan Ɓukasiewicz BiographyWildlife Trade (Illegal) - The Trade In Wildlife, Monitoring And Regulating The International Trade In Endangered Species