No. 2001/003
Geneva, 9 February 2001

Notification to the Parties


CITES permits and certificates – Involvement of the Secretariat

1. This Notification replaces Notification to the Parties No. 2000/041.

2. As a result of the budgetary decisions made by the Conference of the Parties at its 11th meeting, the Secretariat has been unable to employ a member of staff to work full-time on matters relating to permits.

3. Nevertheless, the Secretariat will continue to serve as a repository for sample permits and authorized signatures. It will continue to distribute specimen documents, whilst also exploring means for providing electronic versions on its website. The Secretariat will also continue to fulfil its obligations under Decisions 11.133 and 11.134 regarding the printing of permits upon Parties’ request.

4. Notification to the Parties No. 1999/27 (Confirmation of permits – Decisions of the Standing Committee) provides guidance to the Parties on the circumstances in which the Secretariat’s assistance should be sought to confirm the validity and authenticity of CITES permits and certificates.

5. Parties are reminded that the Standing Committee had previously agreed that the Secretariat should not undertake work involving routine permit confirmation matters. Despite this, a number of Parties continue to contact the Secretariat instead of liaising with the relevant issuing Management Authorities. Apart from the specific circumstances described in Notification to the Parties No. 1999/27, the assistance of the Secretariat should only be sought when issues cannot be resolved bilaterally or when there are grounds to suspect that a permit has been issued contrary to the provisions of the Convention.

6. Parties are requested, however, to continue to provide copies of permits and certificates that have been rejected, with an explanation of the reasons why, so that the Secretariat continues to be made aware of illicit trade or implementation problems.

7. For the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, the Secretariat provided guidelines on the issuance and acceptance of permits and certificates in order to assist Management Authorities. These guidelines were endorsed by the Conference and the Secretariat was directed to distribute them. A copy, amended in line with the budgetary decisions taken by the Conference of the Parties is attached herewith. The Secretariat suggests that Management Authorities provide copies to their relevant national enforcement agencies.

8. Parties are further reminded that the Secretariat will not provide information to traders on the authenticity or validity of permits or certificates. Neither will the Secretariat act as an arbitrator in disputes between traders and their national authorities. Parties are therefore requested to discourage traders from communicating directly with the Secretariat.

Guidelines for issuance and acceptance of permits and certificates


1. Regrettably, the Secretariat has, in the past, had to recommend rejection of permits or certificates because of what might be regarded as very basic mistakes by issuing authorities. A greater degree of care on the part of some authorities could eradicate these problems. The number of errors in the issuance of permits and certificates and in control indicate a requirement for increased training in some Management Authorities, Scientific Authorities and Customs agencies.

2. The issuance of export permits for wild specimens of species that do not occur in the country of export or for species that should not be imported for a primarily commercial purpose are, however, serious infractions of the Convention. It is apparent that several Parties should increase their scrutiny of permits and certificates with regard to these matters. The Secretariat believes that fraudulent applications, involving applicants who give false or misleading information, are also relatively common, and these could be detected at an earlier stage if Management Authorities increase scrutiny.

3. Management Authorities should emphasize to their staff that one of the most direct influences they can have over implementation and enforcement of the Convention is through a strict review of the information provided in applications for permits and certificates. Experience has shown that the use of genuine documents, issued by designated Management Authorities, to trade illegally obtained specimens is one of the most prevalent methods of fraud.

4. The following are the most common grounds that previously prompted the Secretariat to recommend rejection of permits and certificates. Management Authorities should consider these problems when issuing documents for export or re-export of specimens:

a) a permit or certificate has been altered and the issuing authority has not endorsed the amendment;

b) incorrect reference to exporting country’s quota for the species in question;

c) a pre-convention certificate gives no date of acquisition;

d) a permit form and/or signature does not correspond to samples held by the Secretariat;

e) insufficient details are provided for species, source and/or prior exporting country;

f) the species does not occur in the wild in the country of export or the declared country of origin;

g) incorrect use of purpose or source codes;

h) a re-export certificate quotes a number of an export permit that does not relate to the specimen being shipped or that quotes an export permit number that does not correspond to any issued by the exporting country;

i) an import permit is issued to authorize trade for primarily commercial purposes in specimens of an Appendix-I species (other than captive-bred or artificially propagated specimens);

j) declarations of captive-breeding or artificial propagation do not comply with Resolution Conf. 10.16;

k) incorrect period of validity of a permit or certificate;

l) the address given for the consignee or importer is in the country of issuance.

5. Persons tasked with the issuance of documents may also find useful some of the guidance given below relating to acceptance.

Acceptance of permits and certificates

6. Offices reviewing the authenticity and validity of permits and certificates should have the following documents or publications available to them. Some of the information is available on the CITES Web site at

a) the CITES Directory, which provides details of all CITES Management and Scientific Authorities and of the authorities non-Parties have notified to the Secretariat as being competent to issue comparable documents;

b) a copy of the Convention and the most recent edition of Appendices I and II and Appendix III;

c) current Resolutions of the Conference of the Parties to CITES. Resolution Conf. 10.2 relates specifically to permits and certificates but reference will also have to be made to others, for example trade with non-Parties (Resolution Conf. 9.5), definition of primarily commercial purposes (Resolution Conf. 5.10), pre-Convention specimens (Resolution Conf. 5.11), etc.;

d) a copy of valid Notifications to the Parties, especially those relating to export quotas and registered breeding or artificial propagation operations. Notifications relating to such subjects as lost or stolen security stamps, stricter domestic measures and other specific aspects of trade will also be of use and the Secretariat recommends the creation of a file in which valid Notifications relating to permit work can be stored and kept to hand;

e) a current copy of the Checklist of CITES Species.

7. The Secretariat recommends that the following questions be used as a form of checklist when reviewing permits and certificates:

a) Does the document match the specimen document of the issuing country?

b) Is the issuing authority listed in the CITES Directory?

c) Is the document in one of the three working languages of the Convention?

d) Does the signature appear to be that of an authorized person (if known)?

e) Is the issuing authority’s stamp or seal on the document?

f) Does the period of validity comply with the Convention and Resolution Conf. 10.2?

g) Is it clear whether the document is an export permit, import permit, re-export certificate or other form of certificate? Is it appropriate to the type of transaction proposed?

h) If it is a re-export certificate, have the details of the previous re-export certificate or export permit been quoted (date, number and country of issuance)?

i) Have the names and addresses of the exporter and importer been given in sufficient detail?

j) Does the document require the applicant’s signature? Is it signed?

k) If the issuing authority uses security stamps, is there a stamp on the document? Has it been cancelled by a signature and stamp or seal? Is the security stamp number correctly quoted on the document?

l) What is the purpose of the transaction? Is it in accordance with the Convention? For example, an import permit authorizing commercial trade in a wild-caught Appendix-I animal would be invalid.

m) Is the source of the specimen(s) specified? Is it compatible with the proposed purpose of the transaction?

n) If the source is given as ‘W’ on an export permit, is the issuing country a range State?

o) Have the scientific names of the species been given?

p) Is the quantity of specimens specified?

q) Is the appendix number specified?

r) If the registration number of a captive-breeding operation is required, is it specified? If the specimens are marked, have numbers or details been given?

s) If the transaction involves live animals, does the document contain a statement that they must be transported in accordance with CITES/IATA guidelines and regulations?

t) Are quota details given? Does the quota correspond to the details given in the Notification to the Parties?

u) Has any alteration, modification or crossing-out on the document been authenticated by a stamp and signature of the issuing authority?

8. If the answer to the last question at any of the points in paragraph 7 above is, 'No', then the document may be technically invalid. If it appears that a simple typographical or administrative error has taken place and there is otherwise no suspicion of fraud, then contact should be made with the issuing authority to resolve the issue.