Any Party of CITES may make a unilateral statement that it will not be bound by the provisions of the Convention relating to trade in a particular species listed in the Appendices (or in a part or derivative listed in Appendix III).

These statements are called reservations1 and may be made in accordance with Articles XVXVI and XXIII of the Convention.

The relevant parts of Article XXIII of the Convention read as follows:

  1. The provisions of the present Convention shall not be subject to general reservations. Specific reservations may be entered in accordance with the provisions of this Article and Articles XV and XVI.
  2. Any State may, on depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, enter a specific reservation with regard to:

(a) any species included in Appendix I, II or III; or

(b) any parts or derivatives specified in relation to a species included in Appendix III.

Article XXIII of the Convention thus distinguishes between the two types of reservations: Paragraph 1 concerns specific reservations to an amendment to the CITES Appendices. This type of reservation can be made by a Party in accordance with Article XV and XVI of the Convention. Paragraph 2 concerns specific reservations made by a State at the time of depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

For species included in Appendix I or II, a reservation may be entered either when a State becomes a Party to the Convention or within 90 days after the adoption of an amendment to the Appendices. For example, if the Conference of the Parties agrees at a meeting to include a species in Appendix I, reservations against the Appendix-I listing have to be entered within 90 days after the end of the meeting. (See Article XV, paragraph 3, and Article XXIII, paragraph 1, of the Convention.)

Parties are reminded that where a species is deleted from one Appendix of the Convention and simultaneously included in another, any reservations entered in respect of the previous inclusion will become invalid. Therefore, if a Party wishes to continue to have a reservation against the inclusion of the species, it must enter a new reservation. For species (or parts and derivatives) included in Appendix III, a State may enter a reservation at the time of becoming a Party or at any time thereafter. (See Article XVI and Article XXIII of the Convention).

Parties wishing to make a reservation with respect to the inclusion of a species in Appendix I, II or III must do so by written notification to the Depositary Government. The contact details of the Depositary Government (Switzerland) are:

FDFA Directorate of Public International Law (DDIP)

International Treaties Section
Kochergasse 10
CH – 3003 Bern

Phone:  +41 (0)58 465 07 63

Fax: +41 (0)58 465 07 29

E-mail: [email protected]

A Party that has entered a reservation may withdraw it at any time. The reservation remains in effect until withdrawn, with such withdrawal becoming effective on the date of the Depositary Government’s notification to the Parties (unless a later date has been set by the Party withdrawing the reservation). 

While the reservation is in effect, the Party is formally treated as a non-Party with respect to trade in the species (or specimen) concerned.  This means that the rule set out in Article X of the Convention on Trade with States not party to the Convention will apply when the reserving Party trades in the species with another CITES Party. CITES Parties trading in that species with the reserving Party must still seek comparable documentation from the competent authorities of the reserving Party, which substantially conforms with the usual requirements of CITES for trade in the species.

Although all Parties have the right to enter reservations, they can cause implementation problems. The Conference of the Parties has therefore adopted Resolution Conf. 4.25 (Rev. CoP19), which recommends, inter alia, that Parties that have entered reservations with regard to the inclusion of a species in Appendix I should treat the species as if it were in Appendix II and should include records of trade in these species in their annual reports.

Reservations for each Party are included in the country profiles. The list of reservations in effect is available here.

[1] “Reservation” means a unilateral statement, however phrased or named, made by a State or an international organization when signing, ratifying, formally confirming, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty or by a State when making a notification of succession to a treaty, whereby the State or organization purports to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application to that State or to that international organization.