CITES provides the fundamental legal framework for the regulation of international trade in CITES-listed species. Articles II and VIII of CITES oblige States that are Party to the Convention not to trade in listed species other than in accordance with the Convention, to take appropriate measures to enforce the Convention and to prohibit trade in violation thereof, including measures to penalize such trade.
While legal, sustainable and traceable trade can have great benefits, illegal trade in wildlife undermines conservation efforts and has devastating economic, social and environmental impacts. The serious nature of wildlife crime is well recognized and reflected in Resolutions, Decisions, Recommendations, Declarations and Statements adopted at the highest levels, in many different fora. The Sustainable Development Goals specifically address tackling illegal trade in wildlife through specific Targets under Goal 15, and the first ever United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution adopted in 2015 on Tackling Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife, calls for firm and strengthened national measures, and an enhanced regional and global response. The subsequent UNGA Resolution adopted in 2017 on the same topic reinforces the focus on key areas in the fight against illicit trafficking in wildlife, and places strong emphasis on the role of CITES and the importance of implementing the Decisions and Resolutions adopted by its governing bodies.
A number of CITES-listed species are high value items targeted by organized crime groups. Illegal trade in wildlife must be treated as a serious crime and be prioritized in law enforcement work programmes alongside other serious crimes such as human, drugs and arms trafficking.
No country, agency or organization can tackle illegal trade in wildlife alone, and effective collaboration and collective efforts across range, transit and destination States, and across entire enforcement chains, is essential.
Provisions of the Convention
Resolutions / Decisions
- Resolution 17.6 (Rev. CoP19) on Prohibiting, preventing, detecting, and counteing corruption, which facilitates activities conducted in violation of the Convention
- Resolution Conf. 11.3 (Rev. CoP19) on Compliance and Enforcement
- Decisions 19.77 to 19.79 on Enforcement matters
- Decision 19.26 to 19.27 on International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC)
- Decisions 18.90 (Rev.CoP19), 18.91 (Rev.CoP19) & 19.84 to 19.88 on Wildlife crime enforcement support in West and Central Africa
- List of Resolutions and Decisions related to Enforcement matters
Documents and Notifications
- Outcome document of the CITES Task Force meeting on illegal trade in specimens of listed tree species (2022)
- Outcome document: Meeting of range, transit and consumer States of totoaba. (October 2021).
- West and Central Africa Wildlife Crime Threat Assessment (2019)
- CoP19 Doc.75 (Rev1) Annex 4 on Rhinoceroses: Report to CoP19 in accordance with Resolution Conf. 9.14 (Rev. CoP17).
- CoP19 Doc. 33 on Enforcement matters
- CoP18. Doc.34 - Annex 2 Recommendations to Parties in West and Central Africa for consideration in their implementation of measures and activities to address wildlife crime affecting the two subregions.
- No. 2023/023 (issued 03/03/2023) on Monitoring the illegal trade in ivory and other elephant specimens and its Annex 1 and Annex 2
- No. 2023/004 (issued 10/01/2023) on Elephant ivory stocks: marking, inventories and security
- No 2023/003 (issued 09/01/2023) on Declaration of stocks of rhinoceros horn.
- No 2022/080 (issued 18/11/2022) on CITES directory of laboratories conducting wildlife forensic testing.
- No 2022/078 (issued 08/11/2022) on CITES cheetah trade resource kit.
- No 2022/075 (issued 19/10/2022) on Wildlife crime linked to the internet.
- No 2020/066 (issued 28/10/2020) on Guidelines for Wildlife Enforcement Networks (WENs).
- No 2020/043 (issued 18/05/2020) on CITES Identification Manual and other identification materials available on the Checklist of CITES species.
- No 2018/085 (issued 02/11/2018) on Tortoises and freshwater turtles (Testudines spp.) rapid-response identification network.
- No 2018/014 (issued 30/01/2018) on Asian big cat field pocket guide.
- No. 2015/040 (issued 03/07/2015) on Directory of law enforcement focal points
- No. 2015/039 (issued 25/06/2015) on Integration of the CITES Enforcement authorities Forum with WCO’s ENVIRONET
- No. 2014/006 (issued 23/01/2014) on Rhinoceroses (Rhinocerotidae spp.) and its annex
- No. 2004/078 (issued 09/12/2004) on Submission of enforcement-related information by the public and non-governmental organizations to the CITES Secretariat.
Tools and Resources
- Tools and resources available through ICCWC
- CITES Virtual College
- Practical Guidelines: Sharing Information with Law Enforcement
- GUIDANCE NOTE: Lessons learned and good practices in strengthening national inter-agency coordination to combat wildlife trafficking. World Bank (2022)
- Preventing and combating corruption as it relates to crimes that have an impact on the environment. UNODC (2021)
- Trade-Based Money Laundering: Risk Indicators. FATF (2021)
- FATF Report and handouts: Money Laundering from Environmental Crime. FATF (2021)
- Financial Investigations Into Wildlife Crime. ECOFEL, (2021)
- Set of non-binding recommendations and conclusions based on lessons learned regarding the implementation of chapters III and IV of the United Nations Convention against Corruption. UNODC (2020)
- World Wildlife Crime Report - Trafficking in protected species, UNODC (2020)
- FATF report, Money Laundering and the Illegal Wildlife Trade (2020)
- Customs – FIU Cooperation Handbook (2020)
- Scaling Back Corruption - A Guide on Addressing Corruption for Wildlife Management Authorities (UNODC, 2019)
- Rotten Fish - A Guide on Addressing Corruption in the Fisheries Sector (UNODC, 2019)
- World Bank Group - Illegal Logging, Fishing and Wildlife trade: The Costs and How to Combat it (2019)
- UNODC Guide on Drafting Legislation to Combat Wildlife Crime (2018)
- Customs - Police Cooperation Handbook (2018)
- International Law Enforcement Cooperation in the Fisheries Sector (2018)
- World Wildlife Crime Report (2016)
How do I report instances of illegal trade in wildlife?
- FINTRAC Operational alert: Laundering the proceeds of crime from illegal wildlife trade.2022
- The WCO presents the CEN's new Fauna and Flora section to Customs officers, April 2021.
- Species trafficking as a paradigmatic case of transnational corruption: potential contributions from governmental external control. March 2021. (GTCT-OLACEFS)
- Whistleblower Protection: An Essential Tool for Addressing Corruption that Threatens the World's Forests, Fisheries and Wildlife. February 2021. (TNRC)
- World Customs Organization. Customs fostering sustainability for people, prosperity and the planet. January 2021
- Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, UNODC, Annual Report 2020.
- AIRCOP activities in West & Central Africa, UNODC media release, November 2020.
- The SHERLOC newsletter, UNODC, issue No. 15, 2020
- WCO news - Customs fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity and the Planet (February, 2020)
- Indonesia and the Netherlands dismantled smuggling line for highly endangered species. (Video, 2019)
- The Global Wildlife Program - Knowledge Platform 2019 - World Bank (2019)
- Container Control Programme Annual Report 2019 (UNODC and WCO)
- World Customs Organization - Illicit Trade Report 2018