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What is CITES Agreement?


India’s decision not to vote against a proposal to re-open the international trade in ivory at the ongoing conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) surprised many.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. CITES agreement
  3. Tussle over ivory
  4. India and ivory trade


  • Although increasingly squeezed for space and support in a crowded land, the elephant remains one of India’s most powerful cultural and religious symbols.
  • A pioneer in banning even the domestic trade in ivory in 1986, India has always been at the forefront of global elephant conservation initiatives.
  • That proposal, to allow a regular form of controlled trade in ivory from Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, was defeated 83-15 in Panama City.

CITES agreement

  • CITES is an international agreement between governments — 184 at present — to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.
  • The convention entered into force in 1975 and India became the 25th party — a state that voluntarily agrees to be bound by the Convention — in 1976.
  • All import, export and re-export of species covered under CITES must be authorised through a permit system.
  • CITES Appendix I lists species threatened with extinction — import or export permits for these are issued rarely and only if the purpose is not primarily commercial.
  • CITES Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction but in which trade must be strictly regulated.
  • Every two years, the Conference of the Parties (CoP), the supreme decision-making body of CITES, applies a set of biological and trade criteria to evaluate proposals from parties to decide if a species should be in Appendix I or II.

Tussle over ivory

  • The international ivory trade was globally banned in 1989 when all African elephant populations were put in CITES Appendix I.
  • However, the populations of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe were transferred to Appendix II in 1997, and South Africa’s in 2000 to allow two “one-off sales” in 1999 and 2008 of ivory stockpiled from natural elephant deaths and seizures from poachers.
  • Subsequently, Namibia’s proposal for allowing a regular form of controlled trade in ivory by delisting the elephant populations of the four countries from Appendix II was rejected at CoP17 (2016) and CoP18 (2019).
    •  At the ongoing CoP19, the proposal was moved by Zimbabwe but met the same fate.
  • The four southern African countries argue that their elephant populations have bounced back and that their stockpiled ivory, if sold internationally, can generate much-needed revenue for elephant conservation and incentivising communities.
  • Opponents of the ivory trade counter that any form of supply stokes demand and that sharp spikes in elephant poaching were recorded across the globe after the one-off sales allowed by the CITES in 1999 and 2008.

India and ivory trade

  • The endangered Asian elephant was included in CITES Appendix I in 1975, which banned the export of ivory from the Asian range countries.
  • In 1986, India amended The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 to ban even domestic sales of ivory.
  • After the ivory trade was globally banned, India again amended the law to ban the import of African ivory in 1991.
  • At CoP17 and CoP18, India voted against proposals to re-open trade in ivory from the southern African states.

-Source: Indian Express

April 2024