Image of Pelican in sunsetWhat is CITES?
CITES means Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. CITES is an important conservation tool, numbering some 147 signatories. It aims to protect species from the destructive effects of over-exploitation for international trade, to guarantee sustainable use of others, and to encourage international co-operation between signatory Parties in achieving this aim.

How does it work?
The governments involved regulate permits for the import and export of plant and animal species. In the Netherlands Antilles the necessary licences can be obtained through the Department of Public Health and Environmental Hygiene (VOMIL), Section Environment and Nature, on Curacao. Customs officers in both importing and exporting countries enforce CITES regulations.

CITES uses three lists of species. Two of them are important to the Netherlands Antilles:

List 1 (Appendix I) consists of endangered species to which a complete trade ban applies. All sea turtles and some birds, such as the Bonairean parrot, are listed in Appendix I.

List 2 (Appendix II) consists of threatened species or species of special concern to which restrictions on import, export or transit apply.

The rules for use of these lists apply to all islands of the Netherlands Antilles. Non-compliance with these rules could lead to extinction of endangered or threatened species of plants and animals. Offences of the CITES regulations may result in stiff fines and imprisonment.

For who is CITES important?
The CITES rules concern anyone involved with the plants or animals on the lists. This includes tourists, islanders, national and international traders. A very important detail is that the lists not only apply to live plants and animals but also to dead specimens.

Should visitors leave the island with a handful of shells, corals, orchids or a parakeet, they could encounter serious trouble when failing to show the required export licenses. Upon entering the home country import licenses are also required.

When in doubt
Many visitors or people re-locating to another country like to take souvenirs home with them. But you should know that both soft and hard corals as well as conch shells require a CITES permit. If you are unsure whether you have a CITES listed plant or animal in your possession, please contact Nature Foundation for information. Permits are issued from Curacao via our office.