Making international regulations stick

In my last few posts, I’ve talked about species whose international trade was regulated on a global level, with varying degrees of control and success. To finish out this month, I want to discuss one further level of CITES that makes conservation both more individual and complicated. In addition to Appendices I and II, CITES also contains Appendix III which lists species for which international trade is regulated only with certain countries. To get on Appendix III, a country simply has to inform CITES that it is listing a species- all international trade of that species in the future will need export permits when sourced from the listing country, but not other countries. A country might choose to list a species because, although the global population is relatively stable, there are concerns over its domestic population; or a country may have been trying to get the species listed on Appendix II without getting enough support from other countries and this at least gives the species a little protection. As I mentioned in my last post, big-leaf mahogany was first listed by individual countries on Appendix III and then moved to Appendix II when the decision was made that more over-sight was needed.

Naultinus spp.

Naultinus spp.

What kinds of species get on Appendix III? In the case of big-leaf mahogany, there was concern that demand was so strong as to create massive black market trade that could destroy local populations and specific countries were responding to internal concerns over illegal harvest and overexploitation (Grogan & Barreto 2005). In other cases it may be an endemic species that is found nowhere else in the world, so only the source-country is able to monitor the wild population. One example of this is the genus Colophon in South Africa- this includes 14 species of Cape stag beetle with limited distribution in South Africa. Currently we have limited knowledge of the genus’ ecology, but they are targets for collectors and there are concerns that illegal trade of these insects puts the long-term survival of these species in jeopardy ( New Zealand listed all native gecko species on Appendix III because a variety of circumstances has put both Naultinus spp. and Haplodactylus spp. at risk ( According to a story in the New Zealand Herald (Fox 2013), green geckos (Naultinus spp.) are especially sought by collectors and 24 specimens have been recovered from smugglers since 2010. Geckos in New Zealand are also threatened by introduced mammalian predators and habitat loss, and, since they are slow to reproduce [giving birth to an average of 1-2 live young per brood (Hare & Cree 2005)], these populations are vulnerable to increased predation and human influence.

What part can we play with Appendix III species? I think the big message here is, once again, being aware of where plants and animals, and their products, are coming from- if we aren’t educated consumers, it’s more difficult to persuade suppliers to follow the rules. Although this is not true of all Appendix III species, I did notice that quite a few are involved in the pet trade- if you plan on acquiring animals as pets, do a little research on the species you are interested in and make sure there are no trade restrictions ( has a good list) and ask suppliers where they source their animals and plants. According to Gerson et al. (2008), more than half of Canadian importers bringing in amphibians, plants, invertebrates, and fish for aquariums simply listed the whole shipment as ornamental fish if fish made up the bulk of the group- that makes it pretty hard to keep track of provenance, so I think we have to be more vocal about wanting accurate information. It’s probably also a good idea to take a look at the Appendix III species for our own countries, so that we can be a bit more informed about what is going on in our own backyards.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried to provide a sense of the current structure for international regulation of trade in flora and fauna because I think that it’s important we all know how the process works. I think it’s also important that we understand how much our own interest in specific species can help support or undermine these efforts. As the ultimate purchasers of plants, animals, and their products, we have a responsibility to not only think about how our decisions impact wild populations but also push suppliers to comply with the regulations that are in place. The globe is a hard place to police, so we all have to chip in and help a little.

Works cited:

Fox, R. 2013. Greater protection sough for geckos. New Zealand Herald: 03/10/2013.

Gerson, H, Cudmore, B, Mandrak, NE, Coote, LD, Farr, K and G Baillargeon. 2008. Monitoring international wildlife trade with coded species data. Conservation Biology 22: 4-7.

Grogan, J. and P. Barreto. 2005. Big-leaf mahogany on CITES Appendix II: big challenge, big opportunity. Conservation Biology 19: 973-976.

Hare, KM and A Cree. 2005. Natural history of Hoplodactylus stephensi (Reptilia: Gekkonidae) on Stephens Island, Cook Strait, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 29: 137-142.