Enforcement - Introduction

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 on Tackling illicit Tafficking in Wildlife was adopted in 2015. Most recently, on 25 August 2023, the UNGA adopted a Resolution on Tackling Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife. The Resolution recognizes the legal framework provided by CITES and its important role as the primary mechanism for regulating international trade in CITES listed species of fauna and flora and encourages UN Member States to take appropriate measures to enforce the provisions of CITES. This Resolution reaffirms and builds upon other Resolutions on this topic adopted by the UNGA in 2015, 2016, 2017 , 2019 and 2021

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

 

Documents and Notifications

 

 

  • 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

How do I report instances of illegal trade in wildlife?

The CITES Secretariat is not a law enforcement authority and does not conduct investigations. The mandate and responsibility to investigate alleged criminal activity within any country lies with the relevant national law enforcement authorities of that country.  Members of the public and non-governmental organizations who may wish to report information regarding illegal trade in specimens of CITES-listed species should contact the relevant national law enforcement agencies in the country (or countries) where the illegal trade is taking place. Contact details for national Management and Enforcement Authorities can be found here. The Secretariat plays a role in supporting the work to combat illegal trade in wildlife, and Notification 2004/078 provides guidance on how to submit information to the Secretariat in cases where it is thought to be the most suitable recipient for such information. The Secretariat can facilitate channelling such information to the relevant authorities and organizations. You can contact the Secretariat here.
 
Practical guidelines on sharing information with Law-enforcement can also be found here.
 
Other information relevant to enforcement matters

Other pages on Enforcement matters