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The pet trade is impacted by the world trade in animals

Updated on January 1, 2017
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And How Does An International Agreement Impact The Pet Trade?

If you visit accredited zoos, aquariums or natural science museums you might come across graphics that refer to CITES (rhymes with nighties).

And you may not come away with a clear understanding of just what CITES is. It's difficult to explain on a sign.

The trade in wild animals and plants knows no borders, therefore it requires international cooperation to safeguard various species from being over-exploited.

CITES is an acronym which stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The momentum for CITES began gathering in the 1960’s, and text of the Convention was agreed upon at a meeting of 80 countries in Washington DC back in 1973.

It isn't an organization or governmental agency. It's an agreement between governments, which CITES documents refer to as States.

States that agree to comply with the convention are referred to as Parties.

The agreement attempts to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their very survival.

Today, there are 176 Parties. They all adhere to the Convention voluntarily and, while the Convention is legally binding on the Parties, it does not take the place of national laws.

Each State must pass legislation to guarantee that CITES is implemented in that country.

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International wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars a year and to cover millions of plant and animal specimens.

While that conjures up images of tigers and ivory being poached, the trade is quite diverse.

In addition to live animals and plants, wildlife products such as food, clothing, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist trinkets and medicines are covered by the Convention.

The agreement provides varying degrees of protection to more than 5,000 species of animals and 29,000 species of plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.

Here’s a recent success story: because China is a Party to the Convention, four tons of African ivory were seized by authorities in Hong Kong in October, 2012.

The haul was worth $3.4 million dollars ($26.7 million in Hong Kong currency). Seven people were arrested.

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CITES is among the largest conservation agreements in existence and since the Convention was adopted, no species protected by CITES has gone extinct as a result of trade.

Lest you think that the CITES folks must conduct bake sales and car washes to exist, here’s how they’re funded:

There is a CITES Trust Fund which accepts contributions from the Parties based on the United Nations scale of assessment.

The scale is adjusted since not all members of the United Nations are Parties to the Convention.

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There are other sources of funding as well. The European Commission provides money for a number of activities, and the United States paid for new laptops for all staff members, which replaced the old 2003 computer workstations.

Other major donors include the nations of Denmark, France, Germany, China, Japan, Norway, Qatar, Sweden, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

And, like scientists the world over, they like to party now and then.

CITES celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2010, so Switzerland provided funding for an official reception at the Museum of Natural History in Geneva.

The Swiss also provided funds for the purchase of video-conferencing equipment.

If you're interested in learning more about this agreement, here’s the link.

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