The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is a legally-binding international agreement between 183 states (Parties) to regulate our planet’s animals and plants and ensuring that they are traded in a manner that is legal, sustainable and traceable.

The primary way CITES does so is through the listing of certain vulnerable, threatened or endangered species to its Appendices I, II or III, which place varying levels of regulations on the trade of those species.

When wildlife is viewed as little more than a commodity and trade goes unchecked, species can disappear forever.

The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth $7-23 billion, making it the fourth largest illegal trade by dollar value, after drugs, guns and humans. The United States is one of the largest consumers of both legal and illegal wildlife in the world, and the role we can play in preventing this exploitation and combating wildlife trafficking is crucial.

Wildlife products can hide in plain sight – even in major department stores. It's important that shoppers know what they are purchasing and how it may be impacting wildlife around the world.

Defenders' Impact

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 multilateral environmental agreements and collaboration to gain protection for species that are at risk due to legal or illegal trade.

Defenders of Wildlife has participated for decades in CITES CoP meetings, where we have advocated for amphibians, marine species, reptiles and trees proposals for increased regulations. We also coordinate with countries around the world to help put in place plans and regulations to protect international species. Throughout Central and South America, we are working with countries to protect jaguars, which are threatened for the international demand of their fangs and bones.

Defenders actively works with Congress and states to implement stronger laws to protect wildlife in the U.S. and enforce harsher penalties for those who commit wildlife crimes.

We also advocate for greater support of law enforcement agencies that uphold these laws, and adequate funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies to employ more wildlife inspectors and special agents at key ports to stop illegal wildlife shipments from entering and exiting the country.

Advocating for International Species Blog Posts


Lima, Peru

Biodiversity Crisis in Latin America Brings Nations Together for the First High Level Conference of the Americas on Wildlife Trade

Governments, international governmental organizations and NGOs met last week in Peru at the First High Level Conference of the Americas on Wildlife Trade to discuss new challenges and opportunities surrounding illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in the region.

Wildlife and Wild Places

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