The CITES – Permitting System and the Illegal Trade in Wildlife


This report provides evidence that CITES is failing to police the trade in live animals of endangered species.

The level of fraud and falsification of CITES trade permits has reached a level where illegal trade is actively encouraged by this lack of control.

Documented is the extent to which parties with governance problems now use the CITES permitting system to circumvent the most basic aspects of controls while enhancing income by employing a range of corrupt and criminal activities.

Also documented is the role played of the importers and that of the CITES secretariat which id involved in the cover up of a wide range of corrupt and criminal activities.

Evidence presented includes scans of a range of illegal CITES permits.

The report is the result of investigations into the trafficking of 135 chimps and 10 gorillas from Guinea in West Africa to China, clearly carried out illegally.

In the process of this investigation the head of the CITES management authority of Guinea has gone on record stating that: “the CITES convention is the dirtiest of conventions when it comes to fraud and Falsification”.

Based on the present system there is absolutely no control on the level of trade which is taking place.


ENACT NOW the proposals that exist for a new staff member to be introduced at the CITES secretariat in Geneva to evaluate any permit for the live import or export of any CITES one listed species.

This is a system which used to be in place and would today be much easier to administer considering modern communication and scanning technology.

TAKE ENFORCEMENT ACTION against past illegal exports and imports as stipulated under Article VIII of the Convention.


In light of the evidence, if no action is taken against even these most flagrant of infractions, it means they are being sanctioned under the existing CITES system with a wide range of parties deriving commercial benefits based on these illegal transactions.

In the absence of any significant action, then the question must be – has the convention and its administration become part of the problem?

The international and illegal trade in wildlife has received considerable attention in the past few years. Many individuals around the world concerned with the illegal trafficking of live animals, their products, and the more general loss of biodiversity, are aware of a UN Convention dealing with the illegal aspects of the trade, and the objective that the legal trade remains sustainable. The United Nations represents a global governance body which is mandated to take care of at least some of humanity’s problems and those of the natural world. The Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES1) is part of that body, and concerned observers regularly hear about the role of CITES, and the actions taken during a variety of meetings taking place around the world. To many, CITES is a recognized body spending tax payers money to ensure that the trade is not growing out of control, and endangered species become extinct. A huge number of government officials represent their countries at these meetings and tell their voters and tax payers that they are doing their share within the CITES context. The implication is that things are being taken care of and there is no need for anybody to have sleepless nights. Having produced many documentaries on the illegal and expanding trade in endangered wildlife, I do have sleepless nights!

Karl Ammann, Nanyuki, August 2015

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