The Department has primary responsibility for the implementation of Australia’s requirements for international movement of species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These requirements are given effect through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
- Frequently asked questions - Answers to your wildlife trade and CITES questions
- CITES Species+ - Find out which animals and plants are listed under CITES
- Apply for a wildlife trade permit
Changes to regulation of international trade in wildlife following CITES CoP18
On 26 November 2019, a number of changes to how international wildlife trade is regulated will come into effect. These changes reflect the decisions made at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES.
Finished musical instruments, musical instrument parts and accessories made from CITES Appendix II Dalbergia and Gibourtia rosewood species will no longer require CITES permits. Shipments of finished items made of these rosewood species up to a total weight of 10kg per shipment will also no longer require permits.
For more information on the changes to the regulation of international trade in timber please see: Changes to regulation of international trade in CITES timber species fact sheet
CoP18 also agreed to include giraffes in Appendix II, meaning CITES permits will be required for international trade in live giraffes and giraffe specimens for the first time.
New CITES protections for shortfin and longfin mako sharks, wedgefish, and guitarfish will also come into effect on 26 November 2019. These species are included in Appendix II, and permits will be required to trade in products from these species.
For more information about CITES and international wildlife trade, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: +61 2 6274 1900.
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What is CITES?
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that the international trade in wildlife does not threaten wild populations of plants and animals.
Approximately 5,600 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants are listed under CITES. Find out which species are listed under CITES: CITES Species+.
CITES entered into force on 1 July 1975.
Australia became a Party to CITES in 1976. There are now more than 180 Parties to CITES, including Australia.
Australia registers a List of CITES Species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The list includes:
- details of the CITES Appendix in which a species is listed
- the date on which the CITES provisions first applied to the species
- any conditions or restrictions that may apply to the specimen.
For species which have been listed by CITES Parties at a higher taxonomic level e.g. family or order, the list will not name all species in these groupings. For example, all bears in the family Ursidae have been listed under CITES Appendix II. Therefore only "Ursidae" will appear on the list (except where a particular species is CITES Appendix I).
- List of CITES Species for the Purposes of the Act (29/11/2001) (Please refer to the top of the Compilations list for the most current List of CITES Species)
More information on CITES is available on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) website.
How does CITES work?
The import and export of species listed under CITES is regulated by a permitting system implemented by CITES member countries. The permitting system verifies that the international movement of a listed species is both legal and sustainable.
Both commercial and non-commercial trade of CITES listed plants and animals (including their parts and derivatives) is regulated. This includes species used in the high-end fashion industry (such as crocodile, python and snake leather), traditional medicines (such as bear bile, tiger bone and ginseng), marine species (including shark fin), scientific specimens (including live monkeys and monkey blood specimens), transfer of live animals between zoos, live plants, timber and cut flowers (including sandalwood, orchids and ferns), personal hunting trophies, tourist souvenirs (including corals and clam shells), and musical instruments (such as rosewood fret boards found in guitars, and ivory used in pianos and bagpipes).
Animals and plants are listed under CITES in one of three Appendices, depending on the threat of international trade to the survival of the species.
- Appendix I lists species currently threatened with extinction from international trade
- Appendix II lists species not currently threatened with extinction but could become so if trade is not regulated
- Appendix III lists specific populations of species or species threatened only in a specific country
Australia’s stricter domestic measures
CITES is legally binding and requires Parties to implement national legislation to enforce CITES requirements.
Australia implements CITES through Australian national environment law - the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
While CITES promotes a consistent approach to the implementation of the Convention, it does not limit the right of Parties to adopt measures that are stricter than required by CITES.
Under the EPBC Act, Australia has adopted a range of domestic measures that impose additional requirements and in some cases further restrict trade in CITES listed species. Such measures include tighter restrictions on international imports and exports of cetaceans (whales and dolphins), elephants, rhinos and African lions. Trade in these specimens is only allowed in very limited circumstances, such as for research purposes or if the item is vintage. Other stricter measures that Australia has in place relate to import requirements for Appendix II species, and the exclusion of some species from personal and household effects exemptions. Australia’s stricter domestic measures are set out in the table below.
|Stricter domestic measure||Description||Details of the legal declaration|
|Cetaceans (whales and dolphins)||Australia treats all cetaceans as though they are listed on Appendix I to CITES||Declaring all Cetacea as Appendix I|
|Elephants||Australia treats all elephant populations as though they are listed on Appendix I to CITES.
Requirements for trading in elephant specimens are outlined in the fact sheet on Requirements for importing, exporting and selling elephant ivory and rhino horn.
|Declaring all Elephants as Appendix I|
|Lions||Australia treats all lion populations as though they are listed on Appendix I to CITES.
Frequently Asked Questions
|Declaring all African lions as Appendix I|
|Rhinoceros||Australia has strict measures for trade in rhino specimens, including rhino horn hunting trophies. These measures include:
Requirements for trading in rhino horn are outlined on: Requirements for importing, exporting and selling elephant ivory and rhino horn.
|For more information see: Elephant and rhino trade|
|Declared specimens||Declared specimens may only be imported commercially if they have been sourced from an operation that has been approved as a Commercial Import Program.
Declared specimens are:
|Ramin (Gonystylus spp)|
|Import permits||To bring species listed on Appendix II to CITES into Australia, importers must obtain both an export permit from the country of export and a wildlife trade import permit from Australia.||Species listed under Appendix II to CITES generally must be accompanied by an Australian wildlife trade permit.
Some permit exemptions apply to Travelers moving personal items in to and out of Australia.
|Specimens always requiring a permit||
Some species listed on Appendix II to CITES always require a wildlife trade permit for import into Australia. Personal and Household Effects exemptions do not apply to these species.
Australia does not allow any exemptions to requirements for wildlife trade permits for imports of the following species:
Sustainable international trade
Before an item containing a species listed under CITES can be exported, the exporting country must determine whether the export will be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild The CITES Convention calls this determination a 'non-detriment finding'.
Australia determines the sustainability of exports of CITES listed wildlife based on the conservation status of the species, management arrangements that are in place, and the scale of harvest and trade. Whether trade is for commercial and non-commercial purposes is also considered.
Further information is available on the non-commercial and commercial trade pages.
CITES in Australia
Every country that is a Party to CITES must designate authorities to implement the requirements of the Convention.
The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is Australia’s CITES Management Authority and CITES Scientific Authority.
The CITES Management Authority is responsible for implementing the Convention. In particular it is the only body competent to grant import and export permits on behalf of a country. The CITES Management Authority is also responsible for communication with the CITES Secretariat and other countries about CITES matters.
The CITES Scientific Authority is responsible for providing technical and scientific advice to its Management Authority. In particular the CITES Scientific Authority determines whether the export of a CITES listed species will be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.
Member countries are responsible for enforcing CITES. In most countries, customs officers enforce CITES regulations. Governments must also submit reports, including trade records, to the CITES Secretariat. To ensure effective enforcement at the international level, the Secretariat acts as a clearinghouse for the exchange of information and liaison between the parties and with other authorities and organisations. In Australia the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment coordinates enforcement matters. Most investigations are undertaken by the Department and the Australian Border Force or the Australian Federal Police.
The structure of CITES
Image credit: CITES
What is the CITES Conference of the Parties?
The Parties to CITES are collectively referred to as the Conference of the Parties. Every two to three years, the Conference of the Parties meets to review the implementation of the Convention. These meetings last for about two weeks and are usually hosted by one of the Parties. They provide the occasion for the Parties to:
- review progress in the conservation of species included in the Appendices
- consider (and where appropriate adopt) proposals to amend the lists of species in Appendices I and II
- consider discussion documents and reports from the Parties, the permanent committees, the Secretariat and working groups
- recommend measures to improve the effectiveness of the Convention, and
- make provisions (including the adoption of a budget) necessary to allow the Secretariat to function effectively.
Only CITES Parties may decide on proposals presented at the Conferences of the Parties.
The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES took place in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016. Read more about Australia’s involvement in CITES internationally on the 17th Conference of the Parties page.
What is the CITES Standing Committee?
The Standing Committee provides policy guidance to the Secretariat concerning the implementation of the Convention and oversees the management of the Secretariat's budget. Beyond these key roles, it coordinates and oversees, where required, the work of other committees and working groups; carries out tasks given to it by the Conference of the Parties; and drafts resolutions for consideration by the Conference of the Parties.
The members of the Standing Committee are Parties representing each of the six major geographical regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Central and South America and the Caribbean, and Oceania), with the number of representatives weighted according to the number of Parties within the region. The membership of the Standing Committee is reviewed at every regular meeting of the Conference of the Parties.
New Zealand is currently the regional representative for Oceania. Australia is the alternative representative for Oceania.
What are the CITES Animals and Plants Committees?
These committees were established to fill gaps in biological and other specialized knowledge regarding species of animals and plants that are (or might become) subject to CITES trade controls. Their role is to provide technical support to decision-making about these species including the following:
- providing scientific advice and guidance to the Conference of the Parties, the other committees, working groups and the Secretariat
- dealing with nomenclatural issues
- undertaking periodic reviews of species, in order to ensure appropriate categorisation in the CITES Appendices
- advising when certain species are subject to unsustainable trade and recommending remedial action (through a process known as the ’Review of Significant Trade’), and
- drafting resolutions on animal and plant matters for consideration by the Conference of the Parties.
The members of the Animals and Plants Committees are individuals from the six major geographical regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Central and South America and the Caribbean, and Oceania) as well as one specialist on nomenclature on each of the two committees.
Australia is the representative for Oceania on the Plants Committee. New Zealand is the representative for Oceania on the Animals Committee.