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
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)
- CoP18 Doc.34 on Wildlife Crime Enforcement Support in West and Central Africa
- West and Central Africa Wildlife Crime Threat Assessment (2019)
- 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
- CoP18 Doc. 32 on Enforcement matters
- CoP18 Doc. 71.1 Annex 4 on Review of implementation: Resolution Conf. 12.5 (Rev. CoP17): Tigers and other Appendix I Asian big cats species
- CoP18 Doc. 83.1 Annex 2 on Rhinoceroses: Report to CoP18 in accordance with Resolution Conf. 9.14 (Rev. CoP17).
- SC70 Doc. 30.1 on Enforcement matters
- SC69 doc.31.1 on Enforcement matters
- SC69 Doc 57A on Implementation of CITES Decision 17.239b) and 17.240 on Pangolins (Manis spp.)
- CoP17 doc 25 on Enforcement matters
- CoP17 Doc 73 - Annex 2 on Illegal Trade in Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles
- No. 2018/009 (issued 18/01/2018) on Guidelines for the preparation and submission of annual illegal trade reports and its annex
- 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
- 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?
- 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