Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora: Frequently Asked Questions

Table of contents


What is the convention on international trade in endangered species (CITES)?

The Convention of International trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments (Parties) to prevent the over-exploitation of wildlife threatened by excessive international trade.

Imports and exports of species listed under CITES are controlled through a permit system. It is illegal to bring a CITES-listed species or its parts and derivatives across Canadian and many international borders without the appropriate CITES permits. Parties to CITES are obligated to comply or enact legislation that prohibits trade contrary to the Convention and to include appropriate measures to enforce it. Failure to enact such legislation is contrary to the Convention.

CITES ensures that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants is carefully regulated and controlled in all Member Parties so that is does not threaten their survival. It is an international agreement which came into force in Canada July 3, 1975, to which countries adhere voluntarily. Countries that have agreed to be bound by the Convention ('joined' CITES) are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – the implementation has to be undertaken through national laws.

Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines. Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high, and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.

Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.

For many years, CITES has been among the conservation agreements with the largest membership, with now over 170 Parties. After joining, each country must ensure that its domestic legislation complies with and implements CITES requirements at the national level.

How is CITES implemented in Canada?

The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) is the Canadian federal law through which Canada implements the requirements of CITES. The law was adopted in 1992 and came into force on May 14, 1996, when the enabling regulations, the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (WAPTR), were adopted.
Schedule I of WAPTR under WAPPRIITA lists the CITES species regulated in Canada. The list is updated after each meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties, usually every three years.
WAPPRIITA incorporates two mandatory provisions of CITES:

  1. CITES requires Parties to prohibit trade in specimens of species included in the CITES Appendices, except as permitted by CITES.

    WAPPRIITA prohibits the import into Canada of an animal or plant, or any part thereof, which was taken or possessed in contravention of any foreign law. In addition, it prohibits the import and export of CITES specimens, except with a permit or where permitted by the regulations.

  2. CITES requires that Parties take appropriate measures to enforce the Convention. Measures include penalizing trade in, or possession of, specimens in violation of the rules, and confiscating or returning to the country of origin, specimens imported in violation of the rules.

    WAPPRIITA makes it an offence to possess specimens which have been imported in contravention of the legislation and, in most cases, to offer CITES Appendix I specimens for sale (see section on Possession Exemption under WAPTR).

Do I need a CITES permit?

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Management Authorities are located in a number of provinces and territories and are responsible for issuing CITES permits and monitoring wildlife species that are exported from their jurisdictions.

If you are importing or exporting a CITES-listed species, its parts or derivatives for either personal or commercial use, you may need a CITES permit.

Schedule I of the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (WAPTR) is the list of CITES species that are regulated in Canada. Consult the CITES Species List.

Species are listed in CITES in one of three "appendices", depending on their conservation status. Each appendix provides a different level of protection through varying permits requirements.

Appendix I

Species that are found on Appendix 1 of CITES are the most endangered animals and plants covered under CITES. International commercial trade is generally prohibited. Commercial import and export may be possible for animals bred in a registered facility, artificially propagated plants, and Pre-Convention specimens.
Specimens to be imported into Canada must be accompanied by:

  • a Canadian CITES import permit
  • a CITES export permit (or re-export certificate) granted by the exporting country

Specimens to be exported from Canada must be accompanied by:

  • a Canadian CITES export permit (re-export certificate) that is issued upon presentation of the corresponding CITES import permit granted by the Management Authority of the importing country

Appendix II

Appendix II species have been listed, as there is a risk that they may be threatened with extinction unless trade is regulated. Importing and exporting species listed on Appendix II is allowed provided the appropriate permits are obtained. See examples in table below.

Specimens to be imported into Canada must be accompanied by:

  • a CITES export permit (or re-export certificate) issued by the exporting country

Specimens to be exported from Canada must be accompanied by:

  • a Canadian CITES export permit (or re-export certificate)

Appendix III

Species listed on Appendix III are included at the request of a country. These species are listed as some countries are seeking to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation within their borders. Normally, the listing country regulates the trade of the listed species and requires an export permit to take live specimens of the species, their parts, or derivatives out of the country. Import or export is allowed provided the appropriate permits and/or certificates are obtained.

Specimens to be imported into Canada must be accompanied by:

  • a CITES export permit issued by the exporting country if the specimen is from a listing nation

Or

  • a CITES export permit, a CITES certificate of origin or a CITES re-export certificate if the specimen is from another nation

Specimens to be exported from Canada must be accompanied by:

  • a CITES export permit (or re-export certificate)

To find out if a species is listed under CITES, the appendix it may be listed under, and if listed, what permits may be required, please refer to Canada's CITES Species List.

Additionally, since CITES is an international convention, each individual country has their own domestic legislation to implement CITES. When you are bringing CITES live specimens, parts or derivatives out of Canada into another country, you must check with the other country's authorities to know if they require any import permits or other documentation. It is your responsibility to have all the necessary documents and permits before export/import. Make sure you know what is required in advance. To find out more about the CITES permit requirements of other countries, you can refer to the CITES website for the contact information for each of the member countries.

Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) Schedule I Includes all species listed in the CITES appendices (Appendix I, II and III)

This table describes the CITES permit requirements for species listed on WAPPRIITA Schedules 1, 2 and 3.
CITES AppendixClassificationCITES
Permit Requirements
Species Examples
Appendix ISpecies threatened with extinction that are or may be affected by trade.CITES Export Permit OR a CITES Re-Export Certificate from country of export/re-export AND a CITES Import Permit from country of import.
NOTE: Trade in these species for commercial purposes is generally prohibited.
  • Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)
  • Monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana)
  • Arowana (Scleropages formosus)
  • Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)
  • Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera alexandrae)
  • Jaguar (Panthera onca)
  • Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius)
  • Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergianigra)
Appendix IISpecies that are not currently considered threatened with extinction but could become so if their trade is not strictly regulated. Includes species that are listed because they are similar in appearance to other listed species.CITES Export Permit OR a CITES Re-Export Certificate from country of export/re-export.
  • American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
  • Tree frogs (Agalychnis Species (spp.))
  • Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
  • Hoodia (Hoodia spp.)
  • Venus fly-trap (Dionaea muscipula)
  • Northern river otter (Lontra canadensis)
  • Polar bear (Ursus maritimus)
  • Queen conch (Strombus gigas)
  • Stony corals (Scleractinia spp.)
  • Atlantic Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus)
  • American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
  • American black bear (Ursus americanus)
Appendix IIISpecies under special management in certain countries to prevent or restrict exploitation.CITES Export Permit OR a CITES Certificate of Origin from country of export/re-export.
  • Walrus – Canada (Odobenus rosmarus)
  • Pink coral – China(Coralliumsecundum)
  • Cocobolo rosewood – Guatemala (Dalbergia retusa)
  • Alligatorsnapping turtle – United States of America (USA) (Macrochelys temminckii)

WAPPRIITA Schedule II

Lists the animal and plant species requiring an import permit. These species are NOT listed in the CITES appendices. These are species that may pose a risk to Canadian ecosystems.

WAPPRIITA Schedule III

Lists the CITES species that are recognized as endangered or threatened within Canada.

Please note that species that are not listed under CITES may still be regulated under laws or treaties of provinces/territories within Canada or treaties with other countries. Be sure to check. Under WAPPRIITA, it is an offence to transport illegally obtained wildlife between provinces and territories or between Canada and other countries.

What species are protected under CITES?

You can search for CITES-listed species in Canada, on the Environment Canada website.

You may also search for CITES-listed species using the CITES species database. This tool allows for searches by species names, as well as searching for CITES-species specific to a country.

Alternatively, you can check the CITES appendices listing.

What happens if I don't comply with the law?

The goods will be seized. You may also receive a warning or a ticket or fines of up to $150,000 and/or up to five years in jail for individuals, and fines of up to $300,000 for businesses. A separate fine can be imposed for every illegal item. For instance, an individual could be charged for every box of a product containing endangered species parts or derivatives listed in CITES appendices. Additional information can be obtained by contacting the Environment Canada Inquiry Centre at environinfo@ec.gc.ca or 1-800-668-6767.

Are there different types of CITES permits? How do I know what type I need?

There are several different types of CITES permits depending on the purpose of the import or export and/or species.

Where can I find a CITES permit application form?

CITES permit application forms are available on the Environment Canada CITES web site.

Where do I send my CITES permit application form?

Please visit the following page to find out where to submit your application.

What information will I need to be able to complete the application form?

The information required to complete your CITES permit application will differ depending on the type of permit you require. All CITES permit applications require as a minimum the applicant's name and address, consignee/supplier name and address, the purpose of import/export, the scientific name and description of the specimen.

The CITES application forms will specify the type of information required for the particular request.

Can I get help completing my CITES permit application?

If you need assistance in completing your CITES permit application form, the CITES Management Authority Office at Environment Canada can be contacted by email at cites@ec.gc.ca or by telephone at (819) 997-1840 / Toll Free 1-800-668-6767.

How long will it take to receive a CITES permit once I have submitted my CITES permit application?

A period of 6 to 8 weeks may be required to review an application before the CITES permit is issued. Please note that this reviewing period begins once all required documents and information has been received by the responsible department.

Remember, you must obtain all necessary permits before you cross international borders – so be sure to apply for permits well in advance.

What is the status of my CITES permit application?

Please include a valid e-mail address along with your application so that an acknowledgement email may be sent upon receipt of your application.

Once received, it may take up to 6-8 weeks to process your application. If it has been longer than this time period, please call (819) 997-1840 or toll free at 1-800-668-6767, or send us an e-mail at cites@ec.gc.ca to inquire about the status of your application.

What will happen if I don't have the proper CITES permit(s)?

If you do not have the required CITES permit(s) for your item, the item will be detained at the Canadian border by a Canada Border Services officer or Wildlife Enforcement officer. After 90 days, it will then be seized.

Please note that when importing or exporting an item, you will have to check the other country's regulations to know which permits or other documentation may be required. If you do not have the appropriate documentation, your item may be confiscated and / or destroyed by their officials. It is your responsibility to have all the necessary documents and permits before export/import, so make sure you know what is required in advance. To find out more about the CITES permit requirements of other countries, you can refer to the CITES website for contact information for each of the member countries.

Can I get items back once they are detained?

If your item has been detained in Canada because you did not have the appropriate CITES permit(s) but trade is permitted for the particular species, the item will be returned to you should you present the appropriate CITES permit(s) within 90 days. However, the CITES permit that you will present must have been issued before the date of travel and not retroactively - it is important to note that Canada does not issue retroactive CITES permits, permits must be issued before the import or export occurs.

If you do not believe that your item should have been detained and / or seized, you can request to speak to a supervisor or a manager to verify the decision, either at the time of the detention / seizure or after the fact. You will have received an inspection report at the time of detention / seizure, where you will find contact information for the regional wildlife enforcement divisions on the back of the report.

How much does a CITES permit cost?

CITES permits are available free of charge. If you would prefer your CITES permit to be sent to you by courier instead of by regular mail, you will be responsible for the additional cost.

Can I transport a CITES-listed species from one province/territory to another?

CITES addresses trade across international borders. There are however, provincial regulations that may require a provincial export permit to transport indigenous species across their borders, such as with ursus americanus(black bear) and canis lupus (wolves). When exporting a Canadian indigenous species regulated under CITES from Canada, you may require a provincial export permit in addition to a CITES export permit to legally take your specimen outside of Canada. To find out the provincial permit requirements, contact the department of wildlife of the particular province(s)/territories you are importing to and/or exporting from.

I have an antique specimen (deceased and/or acquired before being added as a CITES-listed species). Do I need a CITES permit to import or export it?

If a specimen of a CITES-listed species pre-dates the Convention, or was acquired from the wild before the date on which it was first regulated and added to a CITES appendix, and this date of acquisition can be established through reliable scientific means or documentation, it would be considered to be a pre-convention specimen. Commercial trade is permitted under CITES and WAPPRIITA for pre-convention specimens, however, pre-convention specimens of Appendix I species still require Canadian CITES import Certificates to be brought into Canada and re-export Certificates to be taken out of Canada.

How do I find out the provincial/territorial permit requirements or the permit requirements of other countries?

To find out the provincial/territorial permit requirements, contact the department of wildlife of the particular province(s) you are importing to and/or exporting from.

To find out more about the CITES permit requirements of other countries, you can refer to the CITES website for the contact information for each of the member countries.


I am a hunter

I am a Canadian hunting abroad. how can I bring my hunting trophy back to Canada?

The permit(s) required to bring your hunting trophy back into Canada will depend on which appendix the species is listed under. To find out if your species is subject to CITES and what appendix it may be listed under, please visit Canada's CITES Species List.

If you are bringing back an Appendix I species, a Hunting Trophy permit application should be submitted.

Export permits for CITES listed species will need to be issued from the county where the animal was legally hunted, in order to take the trophy out of the country. To find out more about the CITES permit and any other export requirements of other countries, you can refer to the CITES website for the contact information for each of the member countries.

I am an American hunting in Canada. Do I need a CITES permit to bring my black bear trophy back across the border to the united states (us)?

A Canadian CITES export permit is not required for a United States (U.S.) hunter to transport their black bear in a fresh, frozen or salted condition back to the U.S. at the conclusion of their hunt. The black bear must be part of the hunter's accompanying baggage and must only be hides, hides with attached paws and claws, the skull or meat. A Canadian CITES export permit would be required for the bear organs or bones.

Permits are required for taxidermy mounts or black bears that are in any condition other than fresh, frozen or salted. CITES export permits are still required for all black bear exports to countries other than the United States. In some countries, importation of black bears is restricted, so you should confirm with the other country whether they have requirements that must be met for this type of import.

What is the difference between a CITES hunting trophy application and an animal application? Which one do I need?

The Hunting Trophy application is used for the import, export or re-export of a legally hunted animal or products (such as furs) made from legally hunted or trapped animals.

The Animals application form is used for the import, export or re-export of any other animal specimens (including live animals) which do not meet the requirements for the Hunting Trophy application.

I am a visitor hunting in Canada. what do I need to bring my hunting trophy back home?

You will need to apply for a CITES export permit using the hunting trophy application. You should also be aware that some provinces may require that you obtain a provincial export permit. Make sure to check local provincial regulations before applying for your CITES permit.


I am a tourist

How do I know if my souvenir is made from an endangered species?

It may be hard to know if your souvenir is made from an endangered species. Examples of common tourist souvenirs that are made from species listed under CITES include sea turtle products, products made from crocodile species (bags, boots), queen conch shells and coral jewellery. You may find that souvenirs made from animals and plants listed in CITES Appendix I are freely sold in the country you are visiting. The fact that they are available does not mean that they can be legally bought or sold, or brought across the border. When in doubt, don't buy. Your good judgement may help to protect an endangered species and could prevent confiscation of an illegal souvenir at the border.

Can I bring back souvenirs made from endangered species to Canada?

If the souvenir (live specimen, part or derivative) is from CITES Appendix I species, you cannot bring back this species as a souvenir.

If the souvenir (live specimen, part or derivative) is from CITES Appendix II or III species, you may be able to bring back this species as a souvenir. If the item is being brought home and is accompanying the traveller in their luggage, a CITES permit would not be required.

CITES permits are always needed to export live Appendix II and III plants and animals.

Please refer to the Endangered Species and the International Travellerbrochure or the WAPTR Regulations for more information, on Environment Canada's Website.

If you are unsure about whether your particular item qualifies for one of the exemptions, please contact the CITES Management Authority at Environment Canada at (819) 997-1840 or toll free at 1-800-668-6767, or send us an e-mail at cites@ec.gc.ca.

Please also keep in mind that your CITES permit may not always be enough – some countries have additional permit requirements in order to legally take items made from wildlife species out of their jurisdictions. Canada upholds these requirements; therefore, check with the government of the country you are visiting before purchasing wildlife products. To find out more about the CITES permit requirements of other countries, you can refer to the CITES website for contact information for each of the member countries.

I am a tourist travelling in Canada. how do I bring my canadian souvenir home?

A Canadian CITES export permit is needed to export a souvenir made from a species that is recognized as endangered or threatened in Canada and listed under WAPPRIITA Schedule III (see table above for details on WAPPRIITA Schedule III, which is different from CITES Appendix III).

Before attempting to export a souvenir from Canada, find out if your home country's government will allow this souvenir to be brought home, and if any documentation is required.

Be aware that Canada's Species at Risk Act , the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and some provincial/territorial regulations also protect wildlife species by including provisions relating to the possession, buying, selling and trading of Canadian species. It is your responsibility to comply with the applicable Canadian wildlife regulations.

Are there exemptions from requiring CITES permits to import/export wildlife parts or derivatives?

Yes. There are non-commercial exemptions for some tourist souvenirs and personal and household effects, but restrictions apply. Please refer to the Endangered Species and the International Traveller brochure or the WAPTR Regulations for more information, on Environment Canada's Website.

If you are unsure about whether your particular item qualifies for one of the exemptions, please contact the CITES Management Authority at Environment Canada at (819) 997-1840 or toll free at 1-800-668-6767, or send us an e-mail at cites@ec.gc.ca.


I am a pet owner/ breeder

How do I know if my exotic pet is listed under CITES?

To find out if your pet is a species is listed under CITES, please visit the CITES species list.

What paperwork do I need to travel temporarily with my CITES-listed pet?

To travel with an exotic pet that is listed under CITES, such as for a vacation, exhibit/show, or because you live part of the year abroad, you will need to apply for a Certificate of Ownership, also known as a Pet Passport. Your pet should have identification marks (such as leg band, microchip, or tattoo) for identification purposes.

Be sure that you declare your CITES-listed pet upon leaving Canada and entering the other country. Your CITES permit must be endorsed by the Canadian Border Services Agency before you exit Canada and it must be endorsed by the border agents of the other country. When you return to Canada, the CITES certificate should be endorsed by the border agents of the other country, and the endorsed by the Canadian border services.

You can access the application form for a Certificate of Ownership / Pet Passport on Environment Canada's CITES website.

What do I need to do if I am moving to another country with a CITES-regulated exotic pet?

If you are changing residences across international borders with an exotic pet listed in CITES Appendix I, you must obtain both a CITES import permit from the country you are moving to and a CITES export permit from the county you are moving from. If your exotic pet is listed in CITES Appendix II or III, usually you need to obtain only a CITES export permit from the exporting country.

The animal application form will need to be completed for the import, export or re-export of the animal.

To find out more about the CITES permit requirements of other countries, you can refer to the CITES website for the contact information for each of the member countries.


I am importing / exporting for my business

I want to import a CITES-listed species (or its parts or derivatives) for commercial purposes. what do I need to do?

For species listed in Appendix II or III to leave their country of origin, you will require an export permit. You will need to check with the countries' domestic legislation to know their specific regulations. It is your responsibility to have all necessary documentation/permits before the item is exported. Please make sure to check any relevant regulations well in advance. For CITES Appendix I species, you would also need a CITES import permit for the specimen to enter Canada. Note, however, that commercial trade of Appendix I species is prohibited, unless the items are pre-convention, bred for commercial purposes or artificially propagated.

You can search for CITES-listed species in Canada, on Environment Canada's CITES website.

You may also search for CITES-listed species using the CITES species database. This tool allows for searches by species names as well as searching for CITES-species specific to a country.

You can find the Canadian CITES permit applications on Environment Canada's CITES website.

To find out more about the CITES permit requirements of other countries, you can refer to the CITES website for the contact information for each of the member countries.

I want to export a CITES listed species (or its parts or derivatives) for commercial purposes. what do I need to do?

For a CITES-regulated specimen to leave Canada, you will require an export permit (or re-export certificate). For CITES Appendix I species, a CITES import permit is required from the destination country. Note however that commercial trade of Appendix I species is prohibited, unless the items are pre-convention, bred for commercial purposes or artificially propagated. If you are using a supplier, make sure you check with them to see if they will take care of any export permits. It is your responsibility to ensure that the item has all appropriate permits before export, so be sure to check well in advance.

You can search for CITES-listed species in Canada, on the Environment Canada CITES website.

You may also search for CITES-listed species using the CITES species database. This tool allows for searches by species names as well as searching for CITES-species specific to a country.

You can find the Canadian CITES permit application forms on Environment Canada's CITES website.

To find out more about the CITES permit requirements of other countries, you can refer to the CITES website for the contact information for each of the member countries.

My shipment containing CITES-listed species will be passing through Canada on transit to its final destination in another country – do I need a canadian CITES permit?

If your shipment is leaving Canada and will pass through another country en route to its final destination, please be advised that there may be additional constraints set by foreign countries should your shipment transit through those jurisdictions on route to its final destination. It is your obligation to verify the route taken by the expeditor in order to ensure that the permit and/or certificate are applicable.

To find out more about the CITES permit requirements of other countries, you can refer to the CITES website for the contact information for each of the member countries.

You can find the Canadian CITES permit applications on Environment Canada's CITES website.


I am a scientist

Do I need a CITES permit to import/export species for scientific purposes?

In Canada, to exchange specimens with other institutions, you will require all necessary CITES permits. This applies to any CITES-listed species or its parts or derivatives, including but not limited to blood, serum, feces, urine and microscope slides. For scientific institutions registered with CITES, there is a simplified permitting procedure. Please contact the CITES Management Authority at Environment Canada at (819) 997-1840 or toll free at 1-800-668-6767, or send us an e-mail at cites@ec.gc.ca.

What type of specimens need a CITES permit?

All CITES-listed species and their parts or derivatives (including blood, serum, feces, urine and microscopic slides) need CITES permits. If you are unsure, please contact the CITES Management Authority at Environment Canada toll free at 1-800-668-6767, or via e-mail at cites@ec.gc.ca.


I am a musician

Can I travel internationally with my bagpipes/guitar (with ivory or exotic wood) with me?

Bagpipes and guitars containing wood and / or ivory from CITES-listed species are exempt from requiring CITES permits, as personal and/or household effects. To travel to the US with an item that contains ivory, for personal use only, you must apply for a Temporary Movement Certificate. For elsewhere, you must contact the specific country for information regarding other possible regulations for importing into their country. To find out more about the CITES permit requirements of other countries, you can refer to the CITES website for the contact information for each of the member countries.

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