The CITES Trade Database, which provides the most comprehensive resource on international trade in species listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), has now exceeded 15 million records of trade. It is a unique tool available to CITES Parties and the public at large and it is an indispensable source of information on the international trade in wild fauna and flora.
Roughly a million records are currently registered into the CITES Trade Database every year by UNEP-WCMC, which manages the database under contract with the CITES Secretariat. These records reflect the international trade statistics reported by CITES Parties in their annual reports to CITES. Each “record” provides details of one permitted shipment (import, export or re-export) of live or dead animals and plants and their parts and derivatives.
Speaking on the relevancy of the Database in contributing information on the sustainable use of fauna and flora, CITES Secretary-General, Mr. John E. Scanlon, said: “The data contained in the CITES Trade Database underpins key CITES processes that are essential to ensuring that no species of wild fauna or flora becomes or remains subject to unsustainable exploitation through international trade. The CITES Trade Database may represent the largest data collection currently available on the sustainable use of wildlife. This data could also be of value in the development of indicators to measure the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and related targets to be adopted later this year.”
Commenting on the services provided by the Database, Dr. Jon Hutton, Director of UNEP-WCMC, said: “The CITES Trade Database is an essential monitoring tool, and its open-access nature ensures Parties can freely access the data they need to make informed decisions, whenever they need it. With records dating back to the mid-1970s, the database also offers the opportunity to detect emerging trends and identify important trade routes. Continuing efforts to make reporting to the Convention easier will result in efficiency-savings for Parties and improved data for decision-making.”
Of the 35,000+ species of animals and plants listed under CITES, less than 3% are included under CITES Appendix I. These are the species that are threatened with extinction, such as for most elephants and rhinos, as well as tigers and great apes, and commercial trade in them is generally prohibited. For the other 97%, they are not yet necessarily threatened with extinction but could become so if international trade is not regulated. Commercial trade in these species is therefore allowed but strictly regulated to ensure that such trade is legal, sustainable and traceable. In the meantime, Parties to CITES, i.e. the 181 member States, have recognized the benefits of trade in wild fauna and flora to the conservation of species and ecosystems, and to the development of local people when carried out at levels that are not detrimental to the survival of the species in question.
The CITES trade data can also be used in the development of indicators to measure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 15 which aims, in part, to sustainably manage forests and halt biodiversity loss.
The Database is publicly accessible via the web (trade.cites.org) so that anyone can download and use the data to perform an analysis of international wildlife trade. CITES Authorities use the database on a day-to-day basis to monitor levels of trade and adopt policy decisions to protect vulnerable fauna and flora. UNEP-WCMC produces regular analyses of the data included in the CITES Trade Database for CITES, the European Commission and others, for example to inform the CITES Review of Significant Trade process and the European Commission’s Scientific Review Group, in order to assess the sustainability of trade in particular species. These assessments, and the trade data that underpins them, are important resources that inform the global and regional decision-making processes.
Figure showing the increase in recorded transactions, all of which are registered on the CITES Trade Database