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Fact or fiction: CITES and the ESA.

In my position as Chief of the Branch of Permits in the Service's Division of International Affairs, I often speak with people who would like to import or export animals and plants. They may want to import biological samples for research or to visit Canada with their pet bird during a family vacation. Their questions range from the simple to the complex, but they have one thing in common: they often reflect confusion about the respective roles of CITES and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). I would like to touch on a few" of the most common misconceptions:

Misconception #1: CITES and ESA listing categories are the same.

Many people think that CITES Appendix I and II directly equate to ESA listings as endangered and threatened, and that Appendix III is a special vulnerable category much like those that some states have for their protected wildlife. This is not tree. Species listings under CITES and the ESA involve different processes and standards. The listing of a species in Appendix I or II requires a vote of the CITES Parties and international agreement that CITES listing criteria are met, including consideration of whether the species "is or may be affected by trade." The listing of a species under the ESA is done through a U.S. public rulemaking process based on ESA listing standards. Confusion occurs because some species are listed by both CITES and the ESA, while others are only listed by one of them. The following table highlights that there is no direct correlation between how a species is listed under CITES and how it is listed under the ESA.

Misconception #2: CITES only protects endangered species.

The second misconception originates from the name of the Convention. The word Endangered is featured prominently in the title: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. So, people assume that only very rare endangered animals and plants are listed by the treaty. This is not true. CITES provides three levels of protection. Appendix-I species are threatened with extinction. Most CITES species are listed in Appendix II; these are species not currently threatened with extinction, but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. Appendix II also encompasses "look-alike" species: species that are difficult to distinguish in trade from species listed for conservation reasons.

Even an abundant species may be listed in Appendix II, and many Appendix-II species are widely traded. For example, all parrots, parakeets, macaws, lories, and cockatoos (except the budgerigar, cockatiel, peach-faced lovebird, and rose-ringed parakeet) are listed in CITES. Most are in Appendix II, but a few are listed in Appendix I. Since some parrots species are available in pet stores in the U.S., parrot owners are often surprised to find they need CITES permits to travel internationally with their pet birds.

Misconception #3: CITES only protects wild specimens.

The word Wild in the title of the treaty also confuses permit applicants who think only wild-collected animals and plants require CITES permits. This is not the case. CITES regulates wild and captive-bred animals and wild and artificially propagated plants. When CITES Parties agree to place a species on one of the Appendices, they are recognizing that the demands of international trade are adversely affecting populations in the species' native habitat. The treaty protects all specimens of a listed species to ensure that wild populations are not being adversely impacted by trade in captive specimens. A number of species listed under CITES are captive-bred or artificially propagated, and are readily available in stores or nurseries. These specimens still need CITES permits or certificates to be traded internationally.

In summary, both CITES and the ESA were established to protect species and maintain viable populations in the wild. Through the years, both have made significant contributions to species conservation, often in different ways. Looking at some common misconceptions helps us to better understand the differences between these two important conservation measures.

Tim Van Norman ( is Chief of the Branch of Permits--International in the Division of Management Authority in the Service's International Affairs Program in Arlington, Virginia.
Status (Includes
Native and Non- No. of
Native Species) Species Examples

Appendix I 511 Asian elephant (Elephas maximus),
and Endangered whooping crane (Grus americana),
 green pitcher plant (Sarracenia

Appendix I 32 Black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra),
and Threatened loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta),
 Mesa Verde cactus (Sclerocactus

Appendix I 492 Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus),
only (no ESA) Andros ground iguana (Cyclura cychlura),
 Drury tropical lady's slipper
 (Paphiopedilum druryl)

Appendix II 86 South American tapir I Tapirus
and Endangered terrestris), Hawaiian hawk (Buteo
 solitarius), Elfin tree fern
 (Cyathea dryopteroides)

Appendix II 51 Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis
and Threatened lucida), yacare caiman (Caiman yacare),
 eastern prairie fringed orchid
 (Platanthera leucophaea)

Appendix II -30,500 * African lion (Panthera leo), grey parrot
only (no ESA) (Psittacus erithacus), reticulated
 python (Python reticulates)

Appendix III 10 Barbary deer (Cervus elaphus
and Endangered barbarus), pink pigeon (Columba mayerr)

Appendix III 1 White-breasted guineafowl
and Threatened (Agelastes meleagrides)

Appendix III 231 Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), king
only (no ESA) vulture (Sarcoramphus papa),
 tropical rattlesnake
 (Crotalus durissus)

Endangered 958 African wild dog (Lycaon pictus),
only (no CITES) Alabama redbelly turtle (Pseudemys
 alabamensis), scrub mint (Dicerandra

Threatened 244 Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus),
only (no CITES) spectacled eider (Somateria fischern),
 island rush rose (Helianthemum

* Almost all orchids and cacti are listed by CITES,
accounting for the majority of Appendix-II species.

General Overview-ESA and CITES Permit Requirements

 Regulated Activities

ESA * Import or export
 * Take of wildlife (within
 the United States, within
 the territorial seas of the
 United States, or upon the
 high seas)
 * Interstate or foreign
 * Sell or offer for sale

CITES * Import or export
 * Introduction from the sea

 Permit Findings

ESA * Proposed activity will enhance propagation or survival
 of the species, or be for scientific research, economic
 hardship, or incidental take
 * Proposed activity will be for zoological, exhibition,
 education, and other purposes consistent with the ESA
 (only threatened species)
 * Issuance of the permit will not jeopardize the continued
 existence of the species
 * Specimen was legally acquired
 * Expertise and facilities are adequate to successfully
 accomplish the objectives of the proposed activity

CITES * Proposed activity is not detrimental to the survival
 of the species
 * Specimen was legally acquired and traded under CITES
 * Live specimen will be prepared and shipped humanely
 * Recipient is suitably equipped to house and care for
 live wildlife or plants (only for import of
 Appendix-I specimens)
 * Purpose of the import is not for primarily commercial
 purposes (only Appendix-I specimens)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora, Endangered Species Act
Author:Van Norman, Tim
Publication:Endangered Species Update
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:CITES supports sustainable use.
Next Article:Partnerships for alligator recovery and trade.

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