Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, 2000, 2:15
© 2000 by Chelonian Research Foundation

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter

Update on CITES
(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)

Heather Kalb
Dept. Biology, West Chester University, West Chester PA 19383; E-mail:

CITES is the only international treaty focused on the conservation of wildlife through monitoring and regulation of international trade. This treaty, established in 1975, currently has 150 member countries. Species believed to be affected by international trade are placed in one of three appendices. International commercial trade is forbidden for species listed in Appendix I. Species listed in Appendix II are not yet threatened with extinction but may become so if international trade is not regulated. Species may also be listed in Appendix II if they physically resemble species that are being affected by trade. Trade in Appendix II listed species may occur, but the proper permits are required. Species listed in Appendix III are done so by individual member countries wishing to protect and monitor trade in native species. Listing in one of the appendices does not indicate an endangered or threatened status nor does it affect domestic trade.

Every two years member countries and non-voting NGOs (non-governmental organization) gather for a Conference of the Parties (COP). During this meeting, the treaty and policies are reviewed and the Appendix listings are updated. In April 2000, the 11th COP was held in Nairobi, Kenya. Four proposals concerning freshwater turtles and tortoises were presented; of the four, two were accepted. One proposal concerning trade in hawksbill tortoiseshell by Cuba was presented and rejected.

All Asian box turtles (genus Cuora) were added to Appendix II. Cuora amboinensis (Malaysian box turtle), C. flavomarginata (Chinese box turtle), C. galbinifrons (Flowerback box turtle), and C. trifasciata (three-striped box turtle) were added because of low population levels. The remaining five species, C. aurocapitata (golden-headed box turtle), C. mccordi (McCord’s box turtle), C. pani (Pan’s box turtle), C. yunnanensis (Yunnan box turtle) and C. zhoui (Zhou’s box turtle) were listed because of similarity of appearance with the first four species.

France proposed to upgrade the listing of the Africa spurred or sulcata tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) from Appendix II to Appendix I. Insufficient information was available to justify this move, so the proposal was modified to leave the species in Appendix II but to have a zero quota. The modified proposal was accepted.

The proposal to include the spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) in Appendix II was rejected by a vote of 38 to 36 with 31 abstentions. According to Susan Lieberman, Chief of the Office of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serve, “We were very disappointed that the listing of the spotted turtle in Appendix II was not approved by the CITES Parties… The decision was blocked by the European Union; had the EU supported the proposal, it would have passed. The States spoke articulately in support of the listing, as did Canada. We will evaluate in the near future whether to consider including the species in Appendix III, although we remain convinced that the species qualifies for Appendix II.” Reasons for the rejection included insufficient information on population size, area of distribution, or rates of decline and the relatively few wild-caught individuals in the international pet trade. Thus, it was determined that international trade is only a “minor” threat and inclusion in Appendix II would not benefit this species.

A proposal to transfer the pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) from Appendix II to I was submitted by Kenya and the United States but was withdrawn after discussions with Tanzania, which agreed to stop exports of wild-caught individuals. This species was initially listed on Appendix II in 1975. In 1982 Kenya completely banned its trade.

Further information on CITES and these proposals can be obtained from the CITES website ( and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife website (