What is CITES
What exactly is CITES?
1. The term "CITES" stands for "Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species".
2. CITES is an international "treaty" that went into force in July of 1975. The aim is to ensure that international
trade in certain species of plants and animals did not threaten their existence. Today more than 30,000 species
are afforded certain protections under the treaty, ranging from live specimens of Panda bears to fur coats or
alligator wallets. The signatories of the treaty have vowed to honor the "regulations" put forth under the
3. Today over 150 countries (Parties) worldwide have signed onto and vowed to honor the Treaty. Each country
then assigns its own governmental agency that will monitor the Convention and enact any protections that are
"passed" or "agreed" at the Convention of the Parties (COP). In the United States, the President has assigned
the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as our representative to CITES. This makes the USFWS
responsible for upholding the rules of the treaty and to make sure the United States abides by any "Resolution"
(Agreed rule) of the Convention.
4. In addition to governmental Parties, others, called "Observers" or "Non governmental Observers" (NGOs)
may attend the Convention or the subcommittee level meetings to provide input to the governing Parties. The
purpose of the NGOs is to offer scientific data about the species or genera with which they have expertise. The
American Federation of Aviculture, Inc. is an official Non Governmental Observer to the Convention. The AFA
CITES Committee chairman provides input and makes comment to the USFWS with regard to avian species and
the International trade of birds worldwide.
5. Keep in mind that CITES is an International Treaty, and that the resolutions put forth at the Convention go to
the many participating countries to be incorporated into their domestic laws. Although CITES cannot and will not
get involved with domestic law or trade, its many resolutions must be used by all participating countries when
they issue permits or participate in any International movement or trade of listed species.
6. CITES listings, the actual plants and animals that are covered by the Convention, are divided into three
"Appendices". These appendices are conveniently numbered as Appendix I, Appendix II, and Appendix III. Those
species listed on Appendix I to the Convention are the most critically endangered, where as those listed on
Appendix II are there so that close monitoring of any trade will be accomplished to prevent them from becoming
endangered. Appendix III is a list where each individual country can place a species if it has concerns about
trade within or from its own country. All parrot species except the cockatiel, budgie and ring-necked parakeet are
listed on CITES Appendix II. Ring-necked parakeets are listed on Appendix III by Ghana, and therefore any
movement or trade in this species will require a certificate of origin to assure the members of CITES that the
birds did not originate in Ghana (who has requested the special protection of its ring-necks by placing them on
7. Listing criteria for a species is based on its "range" in the wild, NOT on its populations in captivity around the
world. This is often very frustrating for aviculturists as they do not understand why a "common" bird would require
special permits for export. A good example of this would be something like the "Scarlet-chested parakeet" which
is listed on CITES Appendix I due to its rarity in the wild. Yet, here in the United States, and virtually across the
world, Scarlet-chested parakeets are very common and breed readily in captivity.
The Difference Between CITES and the US Endangered Species Act.
1. Many aviculturists are confused about our wildlife laws and how they "interact" with each other. One of the
most confusing points is that CITES Appendix I listed species are not always "US Endangered Species". This is
because the USESA or United States Endangered Species Act protects or lists species that meet certain criteria,
not necessarily the same as the criteria to list them on CITES Appendix I.
2. Many of the larger macaws are listed on CITES Appendix I, and therefore their International trade is
prohibited except as captive- bred birds. CITES Appendix I includes the Spix's macaw, Lear's, Scarlet, Military,
Buffon's, Caninde, Hyacinth, Red-fronted and Illiger's macaws.
3. Yet the USESA does not include any of these except the Spix's and Lear's macaws. So, for all intents and
purposes here in the United States, we can freely exchange, breed, or possess any of these birds except the
Lear's or Spix's macaw within our State, or in interstate commerce. To trade or sell a Spix's or Lear's macaw from
one State to another would require federal permits. The arms of the CITES Convention only affect International
movements at this point in time. The USFWS is working on incorporating many of the resolutions into our
domestic laws for the future.
4. Currently the United States Endangered Species Act includes the following parrot species (found here in
aviculture) and any movement across a State line that involves money or commerce would require federal
permits. To loan or donate one of these species to another breeder in another State, or within your own State
does not require the federal permit. It is also legal to sell these birds within your own State! NOTE: All of these
species are also listed on CITES Appendix I and would require US Federal and CITES permits to ship in
International Commerce. Lear's and Spix's Macaws, Vinaceous, Red-browed, Puerto Rican, Red- necked, Red-
tailed, St. Vincent's, Cuban amazons. Golden Conures, Thick-billed parrots, Pileated Parrots (South American),
5. Even though we call many of the parrot species now found on CITES Appendix I, Endangered, for our
purposes here in the United States, they are not regulated unless we plan to ship them across an International
border. The list of CITES Appendix I parrots is extensive and includes many of the birds we breed and sell into
our domestic pet trade. For a complete list, you can contact the USFWS in Washington, at 800-358-2104.
Some of CITES resolutions pertaining to Parrots.
1. Parrots are an important focus under CITES. Literally every meeting of the Parties involves some discussion
about parrots and their International trade under the treaty. The many NGO groups provide data pertaining to
parrots in the wild, and the current status of their habitats and numbers. Many of the NGO groups that attend
would be familiar to bird breeders. Some of them include the North American Falconer's Association, The
Humane Society of the United States, PETA, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Counsel, Save the Whales, Animal
Welfare Institute, Environmental Investigation Agency, AFA, WWF, Traffic, European Falconer's Association, and
many, many more. These and other NGO organizations contribute their input to each and every discussion
regarding the trade in birds and other animals.
2. CITES also has subcommittees. The one that would include birds is called the "CITES Animal's Committee".
These committees are charged with gathering information to be presented at the formal Convention of the
Parties. Much of the work that would pertain to the AFA is accomplished at this committee level. Thankfully the
committee level is a little more personal than the COP meetings, and it is easier to raise concerns or present
information that will then be used to formulate suggestions to the COP Parties.
3. One of the most important resolutions affecting parrot breeders pertains to International Trade in Appendix I
species that were bred in captivity. The Convention provides for trade in Appendix I species as if they were on
Appendix II- if they are bona fide captive-bred animals. On the surface it sounds like something very easy to
qualify, however, the Parties have had much trouble defining "Bred in Captivity" in such a way that it would not
affect "wild" birds and animals covered under Appendix I. Technically, the definition used can not affect any
animal that was taken from the wild. Therefore, the definition that has been adopted eliminates all F1 (first
generation captive-bred animals from qualifying because their parents were wild-caught). This way, to qualify as
an animal "bred in captivity", an animal must be F2 (second generation captive-bred) or higher to be considered
for trade as an Appendix II listed species. Furthermore, CITES has devised a "system of facility registration"
where governmental organizations can verify that animals are actually being bred to the second generation.
Unfortunately, the rules under these resolutions have been so confusing and so rigid that there are only a handful
of registered bird breeding facilities that have even registered for this exemption under CITES. The whole system
is being reviewed and will probably be changed at the next meeting of the COP.
4. Another subject of heated debate at these meetings is the term "for commercial purposes". Under the
Convention, a government must ascertain whether a facility breeds its animals for "primarily commercial
purposes" or whether they are a "non-commercial" entity. After many discussions it has been agreed that unless
you breed an animal species for a direct release program or approved conservation program, you are considered
a commercial breeder and therefore must qualify under the current registration scheme in order to engage in
International trade with an Appendix I species...traded as Appendix II. On the surface this angers many breeders
as they often consider themselves as a non-commercial breeder. But technically all breeding is commercially
driven unless all offspring are placed back into a conservation program that directly benefits the wild population
of the same species. This means that if you have only one pair of Appendix I birds, and you breed them and sell
your offspring to other breeders or the pet trade, you are a commercial breeder! Even many zoos are considered
"commercial facilities" if they do not participate in "Species Survival Plans" that eventually will directly benefit the
species in the wild. Under CITES, the trade in CITES Appendix I species for commercial purposes is strictly
5. Habitat preservation and restoration is not a primary part of CITES and its resolutions at this time. However
there have been several important discussions about how the Convention can begin to include such
conservation. It will be very interesting to see just how they resolve this issue.
The AFA CITES Committee
1. The AFA has a committee devoted to CITES. This is not a new committee, but has been in existence for many
years. If you research some of the old Watchbird Magazines, you will see that this committee goes way back,
back to the time of the late Val Clear, and more recently, it was headed by the late Al McNabney.
2. The committee has been designing and selling lapel pins and artwork in order to fund attendance to the
Animal's Committee meetings and the COP. MUCH of the credit and work is being accomplished by Lyrae Perry
and Mark Moore, also of the AFA Store. The original concept of selling pins to fund the committee was my idea,
but with input from the committee members it has become a major project including art prints of each pin subject,
and limited edition prints, matted and framed and even sterling silver coins depicting the Spix's macaw. To see all
the available products, visit the AFA's website at www.afabirds.org.
3. The purpose of the committee is to participate in the CITES meetings and to assist the USFWS when
information about parrot breeding is needed. Of course this input often goes directly to the CITES Animal's
committee, but you would be surprised how often we agree with what the USFWS offers on the same subjects.
The USFWS has granted the AFA official NGO status, and the chairman of the Animal's committee has extended
an official invitation for the AFA committee chair to attend the Animal's committee meetings.
4. If you have any specific questions as to the function of the AFA CITES Committee, please forward them to the
moderators so we can answer them. I am very excited about AFA's participation in the International Conventions,
and I am very proud of the accomplishments of this committee...we are virtually the ONLY U.S. parrot breeders
that attend the CITES Conventions and Committee Meetings.
Paula Hansen, Northwest Regional Director and head of the Red Siskin Project offers her comments regarding the Red
A little more to this regarding the my experience with the Red Siskin...It's on CITES 1 list and a Captive
Breeding Permit (CBP) is required when shipping interstate and selling. This permit also requires a
yearly report of any and all activity to USFWS and is renewable every three years. Some states also
require their permit to keep this bird. Prior to applying for USFWS CBP you need to check your individual
state's regulation and obtain that permit first then apply for the USFWS permit. To loan or donate
requires documentation from one party to the other in order to prove the birds were not wild caught.
This article was posted by Nancy Speed on the AFASCCDTRAINING forum(a yahoo group) and most of it was prepared
by Rick Jordan.