What is CITES?

CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It’s an international agreement between governments to protect endangered plants and animals – ensuring the trade of them doesn’t threaten their survival.

What types of plants and animals are covered by CITES?

CITES legislation covers plants and wildlife, as well as products made from them, such as musical instruments, dried herbs and exotic leather goods.

How do I know if products I’m shipping fall under CITES regulations?

It’s important to check if the goods you’re shipping fall under one of the three protection categories (called appendices) listed on the official CITES checklist.  Each plant or animal product listed will require a different CITES certificate.

What are CITES species categories?

CITES species are listed in three appendices, depending on the degree of protection they need.

CITES Appendix I

This covers species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Cheetahs, panda bears, grey whales, and giant armadillos are just a few of the 600 animals and 300 plant species protected by this agreement.

CITES Appendix II

This covers species not necessarily threatened with extinction but with which trade must be controlled. This is to avoid use that is incompatible with their survival.

With 1400 animal and 2500 plant species this is the largest list. The inventory includes giraffes, hippopotamuses, European eels, and several types of medicinal leeches. 

CITES Appendix III

This covers species that are protected in at least one country that has asked other CITES member states for assistance in controlling trade. Among the 270 animal and 30 plant species covered are several types of corral, North African fire salamanders and toucans.

Is my animal or plant product on the CITES list?

The CITES appendix list uses scientific names of species so it may be easier to use the CITES checklist directory – it allows you to search using common English, French and Spanish names. 

What CITES documents does the sender need to provide?

The sender is responsible for providing an export CITES certificate. It’s a good idea to apply for one well in advance of shipping – even before the sale is finalized.

Make sure the scientific name of the animal or plant species on the CITES certificate corresponds to the one used on the commercial invoice. The CITES certificate number should also be on the commercial invoice.

How do I obtain a CITES certificate?

Each country has its own government agency responsible for CITES and the application should be made according to the requirements on its website. Contact details of national CITES authorities can be found on the CITES directory.

Where does the export CITES certificate go?

The original CITES certificate needs to be inside your shipment. The sender should provide both the receiver and the carrier with a digital copy.

How do I label the package with CITES goods?

The package containing CITES-listed products should be clearly labeled on the outside. Your carrier should be able to provide you with a yellow CITES sticker.

What CITES documents does the receiver need to provide?

If you are importing CITES goods, ask the sender to provide a copy of the export CITES in advance. You will need it to request the import CITES certificate with your national CITES authorities.

Custom clearance for CITES goods

Make sure you provide your carrier with an original import CITES certificate before the shipment reaches customs.

Customs inspections can take time, so it’s important to be prepared for this.

Once your shipment has reached customs it will no longer be possible to apply for a CITES certificate. Goods with missing, delayed, or incorrect paperwork will be seized by customs.

Anything else?

It’s also necessary to keep in mind that CITES is an agreement between countries and does not replace national laws made by government authorities such as USDA in the US, AAFC in Canada, DEFRA in the UK and BICON in Australia.

The trade of certain animals and plants is not allowed with countries that have not signed the CITES agreement. To see whether your shipping destination is included check the countries list on the CITES page.

This website is designed to provide general information related to shipping. If you’re unsure of the shipping requirements that apply to you, check with your carrier. Make sure to check the rules and regulations of the country you’re shipping from and to prior to shipping. You can find this information on government websites.


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