Bear family, Adam Willoughby-Knox
Yellowstone National Park, United States

Here you will find answers to some frequently asked questions when using CITES Wildlife TradeView. If you can’t find the answer to your question, please send us a query at species@unep-wcmc.org

CITES Wildlife TradeView visualises the CITES trade data, which can be downloaded directly from the CITES Trade Database at trade.cites.org. The CITES trade data are the official data on the international trade in CITES-listed taxa, as reported by the CITES Parties in their annual reports submitted in accordance with the Convention. Further information about the data can be found in the CITES Trade Database guidance.

CITES currently regulates the international trade in approximately 38,700 plants and animals (see the overview of CITES species); the number of CITES-listed species has increased over time since the Convention came into force in 1975. It is important to note that the following is not captured within CITES annual reports or within CITES Wildlife TradeView: domestic trade in CITES-listed species, illegal trade in CITES-listed species and trade in species not covered by the Convention.

CITES Wildlife TradeView is dynamically linked to the CITES Trade Database, and it updates automatically as trade data are added/updated in the CITES Trade Database. The CITES Trade Database is updated on an ongoing basis as and when CITES annual reports are received and processed.

Similarly, the species names used within CITES Wildlife TradeView are synched with Species+ and the CITES Checklist, so if there are taxonomic changes to species names and/or Appendix listing updates, these will also be updated at the same time as the CITES Checklist and Species+.

The official list of all CITES-listed taxa can be downloaded from the CITES Appendices. A full species list, as well as the relevant CITES Appendix, distribution information and identification materials, can be accessed via the Checklist of CITES Species and Species+.

Trade patterns for a particular species may not be present within CITES Wildlife TradeView for the following reasons:

(1) The species is not CITES-listed. Please check the Checklist of CITES Species and Species+ for a list of all CITES-listed species;

(2) The species is listed in CITES but there are no trade data. Not all taxa listed in CITES have been reported in international trade; if a search for the accepted scientific name (according to the CITES standard nomenclature) returns no trade, then there is unlikely to be trade in that taxon for the specific search parameters;

(3) The species’ name in your search is incorrect or misspelled. It is recommended that taxa should be searched using their accepted name according to the CITES standard nomenclature. CITES Wildlife TradeView can also facilitate searches by synonyms and common names, but only for those names included within the Checklist of CITES Species and Species+; searching for names that are not recognised in these databases will not return any data.

(4) The filters may be incompatible. Ensure that the search filters applied make sense in the context of the taxon being searched for (e.g. not searching for unlikely terms or incorrect Appendix).

The CITES website contains the list of CITES Parties, including details of when countries became Party to CITES.

Country names in CITES Wildlife TradeView reflect those as recorded in the CITES Trade Database. In some cases, names for non-Parties appear in the database because CITES Parties will still report on trade in CITES-listed species with non-Parties. Historical names are also included in the database to reflect the trade as it was reported at the time.

Trade for specific years maybe missing for several reasons:

(1) There may be no trade in CITES-listed taxa to and/or from that country for that year (or for the specific search criteria for that year); or

(2) The country and/or their trading partner may have not yet submitted their CITES annual report(s) for the year(s) in question. Details of CITES annual report submissions by Party are accessible via the CITES website (available for recent years).

A full list of the official CITES trade term, source and purpose codes, along with their corresponding descriptions, can be found on the CITES website here. These codes form the basis of CITES annual reports and are important to understand and be aware of the definitions when analysing CITES trade data.

CITES Wildlife TradeView provides users with the ability to view data reported by the CITES Parties from 1975 (the start of the Convention) to present. Data can either be viewed for a single year or for a range of years up to a ten-year-period.

The deadline for the submission of CITES annual reports is the 31st of October of the year after the year to which the report relates. For example, the deadline for 2020 annual reports is the 31st of October 2021, and data for this year are unlikely to be available until after the deadline. Note: a notable drop in trade in the most recent year(s) may represent missing reports rather than a real decline in trade.

While this resource does not include illegal trade data, it is possible to view a subset of “seized or confiscated” trade data (source “I”) by selecting “Confiscations/seizures” in the source filter. It is important to note, however, that source “I” primarily represents trade in previously seized or confiscated trade shipments that are now being legally traded for legitimate purposes, such as the return of confiscated specimens or a forensic analysis to be done in the importing Party. As such, this is not a comprehensive resource for wildlife seizure data.

CITES Wildlife TradeView is designed to allow flexibility in terms of searching and viewing the wildlife trade data, but some restrictions are necessary to avoid combining datasets that do not make sense to combine. For example, it is not possible to combine data across different units of measure because they are unlikely to be comparable; for example, 1kg of seahorse bodies is not the same as one individual seahorse, so adding these together would be meaningless. While it is not possible to combine trade reported in different units (e.g. ‘number of specimens’ and ‘kilograms’), downloading the CITES Wildlife TradeView charts can facilitate comparisons of patterns of trade in different units.

CITES Wildlife TradeView allows users to view the trade data by reporter-type (e.g. the country(ies) of export or the country(ies) of import) by switching between tabs. Often trade will be reported in the same way, but trade reported by trading partners may differ for several reasons, including:

(1) trade shipments may be reported in different years. This can occur when export permits are issued at the end of the year and the corresponding import does not happen (or get reported) until the following year;

(2) one country reporting trade quantities based on permits that were issued and another country reporting actual trade quantities (e.g. a permit may be issued to export 200 individuals, but a discrepancy could arise if only 100 are exported or the permit was cancelled);

(3) mortality of live animals during transport;

(4) different trade term, source or purpose of transaction codes used by the exporting and importing country;

(5) CITES Parties are not obligated to report their imports of Appendix II taxa. This can result in higher levels of trade reported by exporters than by importers;

(6) one of the trade partners may not be a Party to CITES so will not be reporting their trade to CITES;

(7) one of the trade partners may not have submitted an annual report for a specific year. It is possible to check the annual report submission history for specific Parties on the CITES website - here (available for recent years); and

(8) importers and exporters may report taxa at different taxonomic levels or may report the trading partner differently in cases involving overseas territories (e.g. exports to French Guiana, but the corresponding imports are reported by France).

When analysing CITES trade data, specifically when noting differences between importer- and exporter-reported data, it is important to factor in the possible discrepancies to ensure the interpretation drawn from such analyses is as accurate as possible.

Direct trade involves trade exported directly from the country of origin (i.e. is not a re-export). Indirect trade involves the re-export of trade that has previously been exported from a country of origin. It is important to note that searches for indirect trade may return both the original export and subsequent re-exports, so analyses of trade volumes should be mindful of this fact.

In CITES Wildlife TradeView, the Global Overview shows only direct trade to avoid overinflating the trade volumes. In the Country and Taxon Overview, the default setting is direct trade, with ‘direct’ pre-selected in the origin filter, but there is an option to view indirect trade. Indirect trade can be selected by de-selecting the ‘direct’ filter and selecting a specific origin country in the origin filter.