For many years, CITES, which currently has 183 parties, has been part of the conservation agreements with the largest number of members. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, often referred to as CITES (SIGH-teez), is an agreement between governments that regulates international trade in wildlife and wildlife products, live animals and plants for food, leather goods and jewellery. It came into force in 1975 to ensure that international trade does not jeopardize the survival of plants and wildlife. With 172 participating nations, CITES is one of the most important international agreements on the protection of nature. Relatively few species of tens of thousands of species listed in Appendix I and II over the past 35 years have become extinct in the wild. Despite the success and high participation rate, CITES continues to be criticized. Widely disseminated information on the threatened status of many prominent species, such as tigers and elephants, may make the need for such a convention evident. But by the time CITES`s ideas were first developed in the 1960s, the international debate on regulating wildlife trade for conservation purposes was relatively new. In hindsight, the need for CITES is clear. Each year, the international wildlife trade is estimated at billions of dollars and includes hundreds of millions of samples of plants and animals.
The trade is diverse, ranging from living flora and fauna to a variety of wildlife products, including food, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, wood, tourist attractions and medicines. The level of exploitation of certain animal and plant species is high and trade with other factors, such as habitat loss, is able to greatly deplete their populations and even bring some species closer to extinction. Many types of wild animals in the trade are not threatened, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of trade is important to protect these resources for the future. CITES, which represents the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is a comprehensive agreement between governments to regulate or ban international trade in endangered species.