The aim of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora —better known as the CITES Convention— is to foster conservation of threatened species of wild animals and plants by controlling trade therein.

The Convention was signed in Washington on 3rd March 1973 by 21 countries and came into force in 1975. Currently, 183 Parties —practically all countries in the world— are Parties to the Convention. Spain joined the CITES Convention on 16th May 1986. 

The CITES Convention establishes a global network that controls international trade in endangered wild species and their products, by requiring the use of official permits for their trade to be authorized. Thus, protection encompasses live or dead specimens of animals and plants, and any parts, derivatives or products, i.e., skins, ivory, shells, musical instruments, seeds, extracts for use in the perfume industry, etc., obtained from specimens of CITES-listed species. 

The aim of the Convention is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants is sustainable and does not threaten their survival. Basically, this involves prohibiting trade in species in danger of extinction, and regulating trade in species that are threatened, or at risk of becoming threatened. 

The Convention is governed and managed by two bodies: 
  • ​The Conference of the Parties (CoP) is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention. All CITES Member Countries (Party States or Parties) meet at an ordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties at least every 2 or 3 years; the CoP may also call an extraordinary meeting at the request of at least one-third of the Parties. 
  • ​The CITES Secretariat, which is administered by United Nations, is located in Geneva (Switzerland), and is funded by contributions from the Parties. The Secretariat acts as a liaison in the exchange of information between the different States, and other authorities and organizations. 

The Convention establishes a requirement for export permits to be obtained in the country of origin, and import permits in the destination country, prior to any specimens being traded. It also provides for the issue of certificates for exemptions under the Convention. Further, the Convention allows stricter national laws to be implemented such as the regulations applied in the European Union. 

The ultimate aim of the CITES Convention is to help ensure that international trade in wild plants and animals is legal, sustainable, and traceable. The system of permits and certificates that is in place ensures that all CITES goods are correctly documented, and full information is available regarding the source, destination, and reason for trade. 
Further actions provided by the Convention for the purpose of control include: 
  • Designation of one or more Management Authorities. 
  • Designation of one or more Scientific Authorities.
  • Establishment of authorized entry points in each country that is Party to CITES. 

The Convention protects over 38,000 species that are listed in three Appendices, which are periodically reviewed. Approximately 32,300 of these are plant species (85%), and around 6,000 are animal species (15%); 97% of CITES-listed species are included in Appendix II.

  • Appendix I: includes animal and plant species at greater risk of extinction. Trade in specimens of these species that are captured or harvested in their natural habitats is prohibited, and is only permitted in exceptional circumstances, e.g., for scientific research, in which case, trade may be authorized by means of an export permit (or re-export certificate) and an import permit.
  • Appendix II: includes species that are not currently at risk of extinction, but which could become endangered unless trade is strictly controlled. Appendix II also includes look-alike species in order to ensure better control of similar protected species that are listed in the CITES Appendices. Trade in animals and plants that are captured or harvested in the wild, born in captivity, or artificially propagated, is permitted provided that certain requirements are met. Any such trade requires an export permit, or re-export certificate.​
  • ​Appendix III: includes species that are subject to regulation within the territory of a country that is a Party to CITES and requires the cooperation of other countries to prevent or restrict the use of such species. A CITES export permit is required when a specimen originates from a country that has requested the inclusion of the species concerned in Appendix III, or otherwise, a certificate of origin issued by the CITES Management Authority in the exporting or re-exporting country.


The Convention contemplates two types of amendments:  Amendment to the Appendices and to the text of the Convention.
Amendments to Appendices: Appendices I and II (Article XV of the Convention) are decided at the meetings of the Conference of the Parties, which are held every 2 or 3 years and attended by all countries that are Parties to the Convention. They enter into force for all Parties 90 days after the meeting. Amendments to Appendix III are decided by each Party in respect of species that are native to its country; such amendments may be adopted at any time, and are published by the CITES Secretariat on the CITES website in the form of Notifications to the Parties.
Amendments to the text of the Convention, as provided by Article XVII, paragraph 3, of the Convention,  come into force 60 days after two-thirds of the States, who were Parties to the CITES Convention on the date on which the amendment was adopted, have deposited their instruments of acceptance of said amendment. The amendment shall become effective solely for those States that have accepted the amendment (regardless of the date on which the State became a Party to the Convention). Nonetheless, the amended text shall apply automatically to any State that becomes a Party after the date on which the amendment comes into force.

The text of the CITES Convention has been amended twice. The amendments are referred to by the name of the place in which the respective meetings of the Conference of the Parties were held: the Bonn Amendment (1979), and the Gabarone (1983) Amendment.
To consult the full text of the CITES Convention, including the two amendments currently in force, click here.

  • Bonn Amendment:
In 1979, at the first extraordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Bonn, Germany), paragraph 3 a) of Article XI was amended to allow the CoP to adopt financial provisions. This Amendment came into force on 13th April 1987.
  • Gaborone Amendment:
On 30th April 1983, at an extraordinary meeting held in Gaborone (Botswana), the Conference of the Parties adopted an Amendment to Article XXI of the Convention to include five paragraphs (paragraphs 2 to 6). The purpose of this amendment was to permit organizations for regional economic integration such as the EU to join the Convention. ​

On 30th September 2013 —thirty years after the Gaborone Amendment was adopted— Costa Rica submitted its instrument of acceptance, whereby 54 of the 80 States that were Parties to CITES as of 30th April 1983 (i.e., two-thirds) had accepted the amendment. This meant that the amendment came into force on 29th November 2013 for the aforementioned 54 States, and likewise, for the 43 States who became Parties to CITES subsequent to 30th April 1983 and accepted the amendment. Nonetheless, there are currently 80 States that are Parties to the Convention that have not yet accepted this amendment.
Spain deposited its instrument of acceptance of the Gaborone Amendment on 15th January 1991; accordingly, the amendment became effective for all EU Member States on 29th November 2013.


The European Union (EU) has been applying the provisions of the CITES Convention since 1982, when the first community legislation came into force to implement the Convention. The Convention is implemented uniformly in all Member States, rather than at a national level, for the following reasons:
  • In keeping with the common trade policy adopted by the Member States, the EU has exclusive competence for the regulation of Foreign Trade.
  • ​ The EU Customs Union means that there are no systematic border controls between Member States, thus allowing the free movement of goods among the Member States.
  •  The EU has a common environmental policy, and likewise, community regulations on the protection and conservation of autochthonous species in the EU.

The CITES Convention is currently implemented in the EU, and consequently, in Spain, by means of Council Regulation (EC) 338/97, dated 9th December 1996, on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein, and by means of a further detailed Regulation, i.e., Commission Regulation (EC) 865/2006, which lays down detailed rules concerning implementation of the aforementioned Regulation (EC) 338/97. For further information, see the Legislation section on this website.

These Regulations represent the will of the EU to ensure uniform implementation of the CITES Convention in the Member States and in trade activities with third countries in order to guarantee adequate protection for species of wild flora and fauna by controlling trade therein. In many cases, this means stricter trade measures, which are also applicable to species that are not protected under the CITES Convention. Accordingly, the EU requires certain import documents that are not required under the CITES Convention. Further, the EU may prohibit or restrict imports of certain species and/or certain countries of origin, even when exports are authorized by the country of origin or source country. This is achieved through periodic publication of an EU Regulation (referred to as the Suspensions Regulation), whereby the European Commission prohibits the introduction of certain wildlife species into the EU.

Although EU Regulations for CITES implementation are applied directly in the Member States, certain provisions have to be transposed into national laws when Member States have retained sovereignty over the matters referred to therein, e.g., sanctions.

Regulation (EC) 338/97 lists species in four Annexes, according to the level of protection granted, in decreasing order of protection: A, B, C, and D. The Annexes listing the different protected species are updated approximately every one to two years, and are published in an EU Regulation. For further information, consult the Legislation section.
  • Annex A: includes all species listed in Appendix I of the CITES Convention, some species from CITES Appendix II, some species from CITES Appendix III, and some non-CITES species (mainly autochthonous species from one or more EU Member States).
  •    Annex B: includes all CITES Appendix II species, some CITES Appendix III species, and some non-CITES species.
  • Annex C: includes all other CITES Appendix III species not listed in Annexes A and B, with the exception of certain Appendix III species for which the EU has entered a reservation.
  • Annex D: has no equivalent in the Appendices to the Convention. It includes species that might be eligible for listing in one of the other Annexes, and for which EU import levels should therefore be monitored. The majority of species included in this Annex are non-CITES, or Appendix III species for which EU Member States hold a reservation.

EU regulations apply stricter import conditions for species listed in Annexes A and B than the applicable conditions under Appendices I and II of the Convention; accordingly, when trade of the species from the population concerned is considered to be sustainable, import permits are required and issued. There are also requirements to be met regarding housing and transport of live specimens, and further restrictions are applicable to internal trade in Annex A species.

Member States may also adopt further national measures with regard to biological diversity and species conservation, animal and plant health provisions, animal care and welfare requirements, Customs regulations, etc.
Thus, the EU CITES Annexes involve different levels of protection for:
  • ​ ​Species protected by the CITES Convention.
  • Species not included in the CITES Convention, but whic​h are threatened with extinction. 
  • Look-alike species that are listed to facilitate monitoring of species threatened with extinction.
  • Species that are accorded a higher level of protection under the EU Habitats and Wild Birds Directives.
  • Species whose introduction is known to represent a threat to certain native species of plants and animals in the EU.

​​​​​​​In the EU, the import, export, and re-export of specimens of species included in Appendices I, II, or III of the CITES Convention and/or Annexes to EU Regulations can only be made at designated Customs entry points. CITES goods should be inspected and dispatched by Customs at these Border Inspection Points prior to the goods entering or leaving the EU.

The CITES Area of the EU Commission website ​includes a list of authorized EU places of introduction and export, i.e., Border Inspection Posts (BIPs). 
For further information, please consult (27 Kb) the EU Commission Guidance on CITES entry points.


With the publication of Royal Decree 986/2001 of November 16, stablishing measures for the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) signed in Washington on 3rd March 1973, and the Council Regulation (EC) 338/97, dated 9th December 1996, on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein, since 2nd January 2021  the Authorities in charge of managing the CITES Convention in Spain are as follows:

​​​​​Management authority:
Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica y el Reto Demográfico
Dirección General de Biodiversidad, Bosques y Desertificación
Subdirección General de Biodiversidad Terrestre y Marina
Plaza San Juan de la Cruz S/N, 28071 Madrid
Teléfono: +34 915976056
Correo electrónico:
Scientific authority:
Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales de Madrid
C/ José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2, 28006 Madrid
Teléfono: +34 914111328
Correo electrónico: