Wood you know the difference? CITES timber identification repository goes live!

Updated on 09 November 2022

Timber is one of the most traded commodities that CITES regulates. Thousands of shipments are on the move at any one time and if any of those shipments is of a CITES-listed species, they need export and import permits for their international travel. For example, when they arrive at a border, there’s a customs officer who has to check that what is being transported is what’s permitted to be transport and that means identifying the species that’s in front of them. That’s not an easy job as there are species that look very alike – one of which is from a threatened species and needs a permit, while the other is from a non-threatened species with no permit needed.Screenshot Timber Identification Repository

The CITES Secretariat has long worked to help officials with this tricky task of species identification and the latest tool to be made available is the CITES Repository on Timber Identification – which is web-based and has just gone live. Check it out here: https://cites.org/eng/timber/timber-ID-repository
It’s the first such tool of its kind and is made up of: manuals, databases, mobile apps, multimedia and infographics and a host of other useful resources. It’s the first time all of these resources have been collected together with the intention of putting the most useful and relevant tools at the fingertips of the Parties to CITES.

In addition to customs officials, the repository will help Enforcement authorities and CITES Scientific Authorities to be able to do their jobs of making sure that any trade is legal and poses no risk to the viability of the species being traded.
Currently, the repository consists of close to 100 resources relevant to the identification of CITES-listed tree species, and over time, it will be polished and varnished by the feedback and experiences of Parties in the measure that they make use of it.
Among its features, it will allow users to filter those resources most relevant to a given tree species, region, or project (such as the CITES Tree Species Programme).
Screenshot Timber Identification Repository

The repository also allows to quickly identify the CITES approved forensic laboratories that are relevant to the identification of timber tree species.
In welcoming the launch, Isabel Camarena from the CITES Secretariat, said, “The Secretariat is pleased to launch the repository on timber identification ahead of the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, where in addition to the already 500 tree species listed in the Appendices, Parties will consider listing proposals relating to additional 150 tree species. Identification is a key element in regulating international trade and this new resource will give officials the tools they need to be even more effective.”

The repository was developed by the Secretariat in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as part of a project in the Lower Mekong, “Support to the implementation of the UN-REDD Initiative for Sustainable Forest Trade, with a focus on trade in CITES-listed timber species” (SFT-LMR-CITES). The project is funded by Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative. UN-REDD is the programme that works on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries and Akiko Inoguchi, who is Forestry Officer for Lao PDR and Viet Nam for the FAO, also sees the repository as a strong asset, “The UN-REDD Programme - Sustainable Forest Trade in the Lower Mekong Region Initiative is pleased to join the launching of the timber identification repository, which we hope will facilitate CITES National Authorities and beyond from around the Lower Mekong countries to better govern trade of CITES listed species.”

Going forward, and as Parties make use of it, the repository will be edited and expanded, to match the needs of the Enforcement Authorities, customs Agencies, and Scientific Authorities in identifying timber specimens of CITES tree species in trade.
This repository is an example of CITES and FAO’s commitment to enhance the implementation of global forest-relevant mandates and contribute effectively to global forest policies and initiatives.