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 adopted in 2015 on Tackling Illicit Trafficking in Wildlifecalls 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

  • 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

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