What is CITES?
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna
and Flora (CITES) 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.
CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). The text of the Convention was finally agreed upon at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 1973. CITES entered into force on July 1, 1975.
In the United States, CITES is implemented through the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Passed in 1973, this law was set forth to prevent the extinction of native and foreign animals and plants by providing measures to help alleviate the loss of species and their habitats. Under this law, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce were given the joint responsibility for determining whether to place animals and plants on the Federal list of endangered and threatened species and for taking measures to protect and conserve the listed species. Section 8 of the ESA allows foreign species to be listed under the ESA. The Secretary of the Interior has delegated the Department's responsibility to the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). In accordance with the Convention, FWS established a Scientific Authority and Management Authority to implement the treaty. In the case of Ramin, the light colored tropical hardwood is found in forests of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia. These forests serve as habitat for endangered orangutan. Indonesia has one of the highest rates of deforestation of any country, much due to illegal logging. As a result, Indonesia is attempting to combat illegal logging, including the specific species Ramin, in part to protect the remaining orangutan habitat. The Indonesia government has done this through a variety of means including listing Ramin in CITES Appendix III since 2001. International efforts to curb the illegal harvest of Ramin, used in the manufacturing of wood products such as baby cribs, include its listing in Appendix II of CITES, effective January 12, 2005.
The Lacey Act and CITES
The Lacey Act was first introduced by Iowa Congressman John Lacey in the
House of Representatives in the spring of 1900. It was signed into law by
President William McKinley on May 25, 1900. The original Act was directed
more at the preservation of game and wild birds by making it a federal crime
to poach game in one state with the purpose of selling the bounty in
another. Over the past century, the Act has been revised several times
making it one of the broadest and most comprehensive forces in the federal
arsenal to combat wildlife crime.
On May 22, 2008, the U.S. Congress passed a groundbreaking law banning
commerce in illegally sourced plants and their products - including timber
and wood products. No longer just a tool to combat wildlife crime, the Act
now has the potential to combat illegal logging around the world.
The overall purpose of the Lacey Act amendments is to create transparency in
a mostly unregulated global timber industry; leading to a systemic shift in
the practices of importers, manufacturers, and timber companies. Thus, by
reducing the illegal harvesting and exploitation of timber and plants in
tropical rainforests one hopes these species can be preserved before they
need protection from extinction under CITES.
Before the 2008 Lacey Act amendments were passed, CITES was the only means
by which consuming countries could halt shipments of illegally sourced
timber and wood products.
Cases Involving CITES
Read In a highly publicized court case, a Chinese baby furniture company pleaded guilty to smuggling an
internationally protected wood, Ramin into the United States in the form of
baby cribs. The wood species is protected under CITES Appendix III and the
guilty company has been fined $40,000 and sentenced to a three year
This case has created a lot of discussion and warrants a glance at CITES and
how it differs from the Lacey Act Amendments.
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural