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What is CITES, what does it do? (Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Environment)

Protection to Otter
At the ongoing Eighteenth Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Geneva, over a hundred nations approved a proposal by India, Nepal, and Bangladesh to prohibit commercial international trade in a species of otter native to the subcontinent and some other parts of Asia.

Smooth-coated otter in South India

Protection to gecko lizard
The Conference also accepted a separate proposal by India, moved together with the EU, the US and the Philippines, for inclusion of a species of gecko lizard found widely in South and Southeast Asia, the US, and Madagascar for protection as a “species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival”.

Tokay gecko

Description of Appendix to Cites
Members at the Conference have voted to move the smooth-coated otter from CITES Appendix II to CITES Appendix I “because it is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction and is detrimentally affected by international trade, as well as habitat loss and degradation and persecution associated with conflict with people (and fisheries)”.

The other proposal that was passed was to include the Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) in CITES Appendix II.

What are Appendix I, II and III?
Appendix I includes species “threatened with extinction”; according to the CITES website, “trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances”. Appendix II provides a lower level of protection. There is also an Appendix III, which “contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade”.

Apart from the smooth-coated otter, India had proposed Appendix I status for the small-clawed otter, mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), the Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) and the Tokay gecko.

The International Convention
The CITES website describes it as an international agreement aimed at ensuring “that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival”.

CITES was drafted after a resolution was adopted at a meeting of the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1963. The text of the Convention was agreed at a meeting of the representatives of 80 countries in Washington, DC, on March 3, 1973; the Convention is, therefore, sometimes referred to as the Washington Convention.

CITES entered into force on July 1, 1975, and now has 183 parties. States and regional economic integration organisations adhere voluntarily to CITES. The Convention is legally binding on the Parties in the sense that they are committed to implementing it; however, it does not take the place of national laws.

In effect, CITES provides a framework for Parties to make domestic legislation to ensure that the Convention is implemented effectively in their national jurisdictions.


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