Trees Big Winners at CITES CoP17

CITES Parties Place All Proposed Timber Species on Appendix II;
Decide to Increase Oversight of Court-Ordered Permits and Improve Legality

For Immediate Release:
October 4, 2016

Johannesburg, South Africa – This week, governments took important steps at the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to protect trees.

Parties adopted proposals to list the Dalbergia genus of more than 300 species, three Guibourtia species, and Pterocarpus erinaceus under Appendix II of CITES. This places trade restrictions on many rosewoods and similar tropical woods threatened by international trade with the goal of ensuring the species’ survival.

“Today is a big day for trees,” says Melissa Blue Sky, Staff Attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “The inclusion of many rosewood species in Appendix II marks a huge step towards protecting the world’s most trafficked wild product. A tremendous amount of work by many people in the lead up to and during CoP17 went into this win.”

Last Thursday, September 29, while Committee I approved the timber listings, Committee II approved a proposal to amend Resolution Conf. 12.3 to include a new section on court-ordered export permits. This section includes language CIEL helped craft and aims to curb the use of court-ordered export permits that circumvent CITES export permit requirements.

The Convention directs Parties’ Management Authorities to make a Legal Acquisition Finding certifying that a specimen was not obtained in contravention of laws protecting flora and fauna prior to issuing an export permit. However, while there are clear guidelines for the scientific assessment necessary to determine that exports will not be detrimental to the survival of the species, there is no similar guidance for parties to determine whether a CITES-listed species has been obtained legally. At CoP17, CITES Parties also agreed to move forward with developing guidance for determining whether species have been legally harvested. This guidance will enable parties to develop a consistent set of practices to assess legality and, ultimately, reduce illegal trade.

“Although somewhat technical, we’re equally excited about the decisions on legal acquisition, which are critical to reduce trade in illegally obtained species and to protect forests and forest-dependent plants and animals around the globe,” continues Blue Sky. “Legal technicalities can mean the difference between survival and extinction. Ensuring countries apply robust and consistent standards is a important step in global efforts to halt the illegal timber trade.”


Media Contact
Amanda Kistler:, +001.202.742.5832