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International Law Regarding Endangered Species

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 10/14/2008

Did you know that there is International law that protects endangered species? It's a bit complicated, but it is certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting a species from extinction or harm.

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    Endangered species are protected by the international law under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Wild Fauna and Flora, otherwise known as CITES. This is an international agreement which serves to protect and ensure the international trading of species without causing any of them harm. CITES was created in 1963 in an effort to protect the international transport of plants and animals against exploitation. Participation in the agreement as a country is voluntary, though once participation is engaged, it becomes legally binding without encroaching on national law. Because of this, all it does is provide a guideline for countries to follow that allows CITES regulations to be upheld at the national level. Currently CITES is the largest cooperation in regards to endangered species with 173 countries bound by the agreement.

    How CITES Works:

    CITES is divided into three sections, called appendices based on the needs of the species they are protecting. The species listed in the first appendix are those that are most endangered, and trading of these animals and plants only takes place in special circumstances. Those in appendix II are not necessarily in danger, though they must be monitored and controlled to prevent them from moving to appendix I. Those in the third list are species that have been asked for control and regulation by at least one of the countries involved in CITES. A special committee meets to discuss which one of the first two lists that a species belongs on.

    As of today, CITES protects over 30,000 types of plants and animals in all forms—live and manufactured (fur coats, dried herbs.) To become a part of CITES, all a country must do is send a formally written request to the Depository in Switzerland. Once addressed, the country has 90 days to enter and agree to be bound by it.

    Resources for Further Reading On The International Laws of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species:

    To learn more about CITES and how the laws work to protect Endangered Species, visit the following link below:

    Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species