CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and was established in 1973 in order to curtail and control the commercial demands placed upon dwindling species and their products.

CITES enforces this control by listing species under differing categories of protection and its application is done through the issuing of permits of export and import for the differing species.

The major effect CITES has on trophy species in Africa is the requirement by the hunter to obtain export and import permits for the trophies they intend to hunt and take home.

Currently CITES protects over 30,000 species of mammal, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and plants.

cites logo
CITES website
read more about CITES from the US Department of Fish and Wildlife
The different levels of protection are:

appendix I
This covers species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade. This is the highest level of protection apart from being declared non huntable.

Both the country where the species occurs and the country to which it is being exported have to agree that such export and import of the species is not detrimental to the survival of the species. This is an intricate system (possibly to combat corruption) as the country where a species occurs (export permit) may deem the population healthy and unthreatened while another country may disagree and not allow importation of that species (via local laws). Thereby effectively blocking all trade and hunting of that species (this is what CITES is all about).

Usually authorities will issue annual quotas for each Appendix I listed species (especially leopard) which differ according to country. These annual quotas are agreed upon by all parties to CITES thus eliminating the possibility of conflicts in policy. For example, South African authorities issue a certain number of leopard "tags" or quota each year in consultation with the CITES members. Outfitters then apply for these tags and if they are successful in obtaining a tag, can then go and advertise a leopard hunt. A copy of this tag can then also be used to obtain an import permit from the hunters home country as it proves the hunting of the leopard is legal and in accordance with CITES quotas and regulations.

Common trophy species listed under Appendix I: African elephant and Leopard


appendix II
This covers species which may not necessarily be threatened by extinction, but may become so if trade is not restricted.

The conditions are similar to above except there is no requirement for an import permit into your home country. An export permit is necessary from the country where the species was hunted however there is not such a strict control on the issuing of these permits.

Usually the animal may be hunted prior to the actual issuing of the CITES export permit, however local regulations for each country apply. For example, although the southern white rhino is listed on CITES Appendix II and an export permit is not difficult to obtain from the authorities, the hunt itself must have been sanctioned by the local authorities before they will issue the permit.

Common trophy species listed under Appendix II: African elephant, African lion, South African white rhino, buffalo in certain countries, hippo, crocodile, red lechwe, tsessebe, bontebok, Hartman's zebra, blue duiker, various primates like baboon and vervet monkey etc


appendix III
This covers species which are deemed, by individual countries or authorities, to need protection in that country and thus co-operation from other CITES members is required.


some advice
While you may think that your compliance with the regulations of CITES makes you legal and hassle free be sure to check the regulations of your own country as well. For example, the US Fish and Wildlife Services has their own listing of threatened and endangered species, known as the Endangered Species Act. Often additional import permits are required for Appendix I and II listed species into the US. You should always check with the US-FWS at 

NOT all species are listed by CITES; only the endangered ones are and the CITES list does change with species protection being increased or downlisted according to current status.

CITES defines all species by their scientific names and when completing any application forms for import and export permits the correct name has to be used (watch out for the Bontebok/Blesbok names).

CITES is a complicated beast and often does not make sense or even adhere to local regulations and laws. Ultimately it is the authorities in your home country which will end up having the final say about your trophies entering or not. It is always wise to make the call and confirm with them exactly what is required and then consult with your outfitter if you intend hunting any specialist species.

Most outfitters are well versed in obtaining export permits for their clients and some do know their way around the complications of the US and European permit systems. Sometimes they may even refer you to previous clients who have gone through the process.

Usually export permits do not take very long to get issued BUT importation permits do take time as most applications have to be published and time allowed for objections (from the bunny huggers of course). As a general rule, you must make your applications at least 4 months before you depart for your safari.

CITES in south africa
The Convention was ratified and came into force in South Africa on 13 October 1975. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the Convention and acts as a channel of communication between the CITES secretariat and other parties. The provincial authorities are responsible for implementing the Convention in their respective provinces.
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