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Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Act is an international agreement between governments to ensure that Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora does not threaten the survival of the species.

The convention entered into force in 1975 and India became the 25th party — a state that voluntarily agrees to be bound by the Convention — in 1976.

All import, export and re-export of species covered under CITES must be authorised through a permit system.

CITES Appendix I lists species threatened with extinction — import or export permits for these are issued rarely and only if the purpose is not primarily commercial.

CITES Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction but in which trade must be strictly regulated.

Every two years, the Conference of the Parties (CoP), the supreme decision-making body of CITES, applies a set of biological and trade criteria to evaluate proposals from parties to decide if a species should be in Appendix I or II.


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Act Highlights

  • At CoP of CITES, also known as the World Wildlife Conference, all 184 Parties to CITES have the right to attend, to put forward proposals for the Conference to consider, and to vote on all decisions.
  • India did not vote against a proposal to re-open the international trade in ivory at the ongoing conference.
    • However, proposal to allow a regular form of controlled trade in ivory from Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, was defeated 83-15 in Panama City.

About International Ivory Trade

  • It was globally banned in 1989 when all African elephant populations were put in CITES Appendix I.
  • However, the populations of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe were transferred to Appendix II in 1997, and South Africa’s in 2000 to allow two “one-off sales” in 1999 and 2008 of ivory stockpiled from natural elephant deaths and seizures from poachers.
    • Namibia at CoP17 (2016) and CoP18 (2019), proposed for allowing a regular form of controlled trade in ivory by delisting the elephant populations of the four countries from Appendix II, was rejected.
    • At the ongoing CoP19, the proposal was moved by Zimbabwe but met the same fate.
  • Four Southern African Countries argue that their elephant populations have bounced back and that their stockpiled ivory, if sold internationally, can generate much-needed revenue for elephant conservation and incentivizing communities.
  • Opponents: Any form of supply stokes demand and that sharp spikes in elephant poaching were recorded across the globe after the one-off sales allowed by the CITES in 1999 and 2008.


CITES Appendix UPSC: India’s Stand on Ivory Trade

  • The endangered Asian elephant was included in CITES Appendix I in 1975 which banned the export of ivory from the Asian range countries.
  • In 1986, India amended The Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972 to ban even domestic sales of ivory.
    • India in 1991 amended the law to ban the import of African ivory in 1991.
  • In 1981 when New Delhi hosted CoP3, India designed the iconic CITES logo in the form of an elephant.
    • Over the years, India’s stand has been unequivocal on the ivory issue.


CITES: Change in India’s Stance

  • India’s abstention was in tune with an agreement with Namibia, under which transfer of cheetahs took place to India this summer.
  • Key areas of Cooperation in the India-Namibia Agreement are:
    • Biodiversity conservation with a specific focus on the restoration of cheetahs in their former range areas through exchange of expertise and capacities.
    • Wildlife conservation and sustainable biodiversity utilisation by sharing good practices in technological applications, mechanisms of livelihood generation for local communities, and sustainable management of biodiversity. Support advances in these spheres at international forums including meetings of the CITES.
    • Collaboration in areas of climate change, environmental governance, pollution and waste management.
    • Train Namibian personnel in smart patrol and population estimation techniques, and facilitate surveillance and monitoring equipment.
    • Two seats for Namibia at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.


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