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CITES Convention

The CITES Convention is an international agreement designed to protect wild fauna and flora by regulating international trade in wild animals and plants and their parts and products. CITES is an acronym for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It was drawn up in Washington on 3 March 1973.

CITES in practice – regulation

The convention in question was signed 30 years ago and currently brings together 183 countries. The Convention was developed in response to growing concerns about the global wildlife trade and the increasing threat to endangered species. The aim of CITES is to ensure sustainable and controlled trade in wild animals and plants that does not adversely affect their survival.

The CITES Convention divides species into three appendices, depending on the degree of threat of extinction. Appendix I covers species most at risk of extinction, such as tigers, elephants and two humped camels, and their trade is severely restricted. Annex II covers species that are not yet at risk of extinction, but trade in them could lead to it, and their trade is controlled and restricted. Annex III covers species whose trade is regulated by individual member states.

CITES members are required to monitor trade in wild animals and plants within their territory, ensure effective protection of species covered by the Convention and implement sanctions against violators. CITES also encourages international cooperation to prevent illegal wildlife trade.

Convention authorizations

The key issues under the Convention are those related to the issuance of permits for wildlife trade by States Parties to the Convention. Indeed, applications for permits to trade in CITES wildlife must be submitted by representatives of Member States and are assessed for compliance with the provisions of the Convention. In some cases, such as the export or import of live animals and plants, applications must be approved by the authorities of the country where the species originated. Often obtaining a permit is a complicated, time-consuming process and requires a number of conditions to be met.

CITES buy, sell import or export permit

Applications for a CITES wildlife trade permit must be submitted by individuals or companies who wish to buy, sell, export or import species covered by the Convention. The application must contain a lot of information, such as the name of the species, the quantity, the origin and the purpose of the transaction. Applications must be submitted to the authorities of the country where the transaction is to take place and then sent to the CITES Secretariat. The application is then assessed by the member states, who decide whether the transaction complies with the Convention. For Appendix I species, a trade permit is only issued in very exceptional circumstances, for example to save a species from total extinction.

Import to EU

As a rule, in order to introduce wild animal and plant specimens into the European Union, it is necessary to obtain an import permit issued by the administrative authority of the Member State of destination. A permit is only required for species included in Annexes A and B to Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 of 9 December 1996 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein. An import permit must be presented at the border customs office, which is necessary for inspection.

Importing live animals

When importing live animals from Annexes A and B, such as mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, they must be declared in the register of exotic animals at the district governor’s office with jurisdiction over the place of keeping or breeding. Documents of the legal origin of the specimens must be presented with the declaration. The obligation to declare an animal in the register or to remove it from the register arises at the time of acquisition or disposal, import into the country or export abroad, entry into possession, loss or death. An application for registration or deletion from the register must be submitted to the competent district governor within 14 days of the date on which the obligation arises.

Some exceptions are also provided for in this respect – these requirements do not apply to, inter alia, zoos, temporary keeping of animals for treatment and rehabilitation and others. In Poland, the Polish Nature Conservation Act is also of key importance in this context.

Penalties for violations under the Convention

In the case of violations, various entities may face penalties. According to the CITES Convention, financial penalties and criminal/administrative sanctions may be imposed for violations of its provisions. These penalties are determined by the signatory states on the basis of their own laws. Financial penalties can range from a few thousand to several million euros, depending on the severity of the breach and the amount of damage caused to wildlife species. In addition, organizations or individuals that violate the Convention can be stripped of their licenses and permits to carry out wildlife trade activities. Criminal and administrative sanctions include fines, imprisonment or loss of rights to conduct business related to wildlife trade.


In summary, the CITES Convention has played a key role in wildlife conservation. It contains a number of provisions for the granting of permits for wildlife trade. In order to obtain a wildlife trade permit, the applicant must meet a number of requirements, such as having a valid document certifying the origin of the species, ensuring proper conditions for transporting and holding the animal, and providing financial security in case the transaction is cancelled.

In my opinion, the CITES wildlife trade permit is a key tool in protecting endangered species and preventing illegal trade. Thanks to this requirement, Member States are able to control the trade in wild animals and plants and prevent their use in illegal practices, such as the trade in ivory, crocodile skins or wild animal meat.

Author team leader DKP Legal
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