© Ed Gullekson

Advocating for International Species

Working Internationally

Working Internationally

Defenders of Wildlife's primary mission is focused on conserving species native to the United States – but our work doesn't stop at the border. Our experts use international conventions and collaboration to gain protection for species that are at risk due to legal or illegal trade. Among the most powerful of these tools is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)—one of the largest environmental agreements regulating the international trade of wildlife. Our team works with representatives from many of the member countries to prepare new measures to better protect their native species from exploitation.

The Importance of CITES

CITES has three lists (called Appendices) that offer different levels of regulation: 

  • Appendix I prohibits commercial international trade – these species cannot be bought and sold. 

  • Appendix II allows international trade in these species only if a scientific analysis is done before issuing a permit.

  • Appendix III allows trade in these species but only with certificates to help track the rate of trade. 

Defenders of Wildlife participates in CITES by helping countries make proposals to list species or increase the level of protection of listed species by gathering scientific information and identifying at-risk species. 

We also work to make sure that once species are listed, countries have the information and resources they need to follow through on the new regulations. To assist them with that, we hold training workshops, often accompanied by the Defenders Identification Guides.

Defenders’ work with CITES has resulted in several important wins for wildlife, including trade bans on parrots and other birds, preventing a proposal to reduce protections for hawksbill sea turtles, banning trade in the Kaiser’s spotted newt and tree frogs, and gaining protection for five species of sharks, two species of mantas, and one species of freshwater sawfish.



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Military macaw, © Maria Elena Sanchez
Success Story
June 2014 - Thanks to our monitoring program, dozens of Mexico's endangered military macaws were saved from poachers this year!
scalloped hammerhead, © Terry Goss 2008/Marine Photobank
Success Story
September 2014 - Five species of shark and two species of manta ray have officially gained international protection!
Scarlet macaw, © Maria Elena Sanchez
Success Story
July 2014 - After being wiped out from the region more than 50 years ago, scarlet macaws are once again flying free in the Gulf of Mexico!