Trade in wild animals and plants is one of the factors endangering their survival in their natural environment. Every year, millions of animals and plants are taken from the wild for private interests. On a global scale, some 30 thousand monkeys, 2 millions of orchids, 2-5 millions of birds, 10 millions of reptiles, etc. are illegally traded on an annual basis. Many species have already gone extinct or face extinction due to illegal trade.
CITES – Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species
CITES is an international agreement for wildlife conservation, aiming at preventing the extinction of species as a result of the illegal trade.
The full name of the Convention is the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, but is well-known as CITES (or also the Washington Convention). The Convention was signed in Washington in 1972 and was enforced on July 1st 1975. So far, 173 countries have ratified the Convention, including Bulgaria, where the Convention was enforced in 1991.
The main principle of the Convention is controlling the trade in endangered species introducing a special system of permits, issued by the relevant authorities of the countries which have ratified the Convention. About 30 000 flora and fauna species are listed in the Convention, grouped in 3 main categories in accordance with their vulnerability and the need for protection:
- species listed in Annex I (species, threatened with extinction – trade is allowed only in exclusive circumstances and requires the issuing of import and export permits);
- species listed in Annex II (species which are currently not threatened with extinction, but international trade is strictly controlled in order to prevent overexploitation – international trade requires export permits);
- species listed in Annex III (species, protected by at least one of the Convention parties, which has asked the other Convention parties for collaboration in controlling the trade in that particular species – international trade is allowed only with the relevant CITES document, proving the origin of the specimen).
EU regulations on trade in wild species
With the accession of Bulgaria to the EU in 2007 our country is obliged to obey the various EU regulations (EU Member States binding international documents). In order to secure sufficient protection of the endangered flora and fauna species, EU has approved multiple regulations in accordance with the CITES requirements, aimed at specific EU issues, such as the Council Regulation No 338/97 of 9 December 1996 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein, as well as other similar regulations. Like CITES, the main principle of the Council Regulation No. 338/97 depends on the categorization of the species in Annexes: A, B, C and D. The first three Annexes are to a great extend equal to the three CITES annexes. Annex D has no CITES equivalent. The EU Regulations on trade in wild species are generally stricter than the CITES ones. They serve as a basis for the regulations on internal trade in species listed in Annexes A and B within the EU, both at national and international level. The limitations also apply to some species which are not included in the CITES list (such as the red-eared slider).
Green Balkans activities against the illegal trade in endangered species
CEEweb for Biodiversity – CITES Working Group
The mission of the CEEweb for Biodiversity is biodiversity conservation trough sustainable development. At present, the CEEweb for Biodiversity is the only operating network formed and managed by nature conservation NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe.
The CITES Working Group was established on August 25-27th, 2003 in Tirgu Mures – Romania.
The founders include 6 organizations from Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Poland, as one of these members is Green Balkans.
The members of the CITES Working Group at CEEweb for Biodiversity work in 8 countries from Central and Eastern Europe (Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Ukraine) for the protection of endangered species fulfilling the regulations related to trade in wild species. These regulations include the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), EU regulations on the trade in wild species, as well as the relevant national legislation of the countries from Central and Eastern Europe.
Wildlife Rescue Centre – The Centre is acknowledged from the Bulgarian government as a CITES Rescue Centre, and together with the competent state institutions it is actively assisting the enforcement of the international normative documents and the Biodiversity Act. You can learn more about the activities of the Centre HERE.
Some of the activities of the Centre related to the enforcement of CITES are as follows:
- establishing a network of voluntary collaborators of the Rescue Centre from all over the country to render first aid to wild animals in distress, assist the customs’ officers in identifying confiscated CITES species, and help with their transportation to the CITES Rescue Centre;
- training customs officers, representatives of other institutions, and non-governmental organizations, regarding the fulfillment of the CITES requirements;
- carrying out an information campaign to proote CITES – issuing information materials for the Convention and its application in Bulgaria, putting information signboards, organizing press-conferences and working with media;
- participating and assisting the MoEW in organizing annual seminars to train RIEW experts from all over the country regarding the application of the requirements of the Biodiversity Act and CITES;
- assisting the MoEW in designating five official CITES Rescue Centres in the country;
- assisting the RIEW’s experts in biodiversity in the application of the requirements of the Biodiversity Act and CITES all over the country on a daily basis.
- CITES-related information materials – brochures, stickers, information signboards boards both in Bulgarian and English have been issued and disseminated;
- Several trainings of customs officers have been carried out;
- Together with the members of the CITES working group of the CEEweb for biodiversity, Green Balkans has published a report on the trade in endangered species in Central and Eastern Europe (2007);
- Green Balkans has participated as an observer in the international conference of the CITES Parties in Hague, the Netherlands, in May 2007;
- Together with the other organizations from the CITES working group of the CEEweb for biodiversity, Green Balkans has implemented a research on the enforcement of CITES in Central and Eastern Europe;
- Monitoring on the trade in CITES species in pet shops is being carried out as part of a project of the working group.