The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments around the world. CITES is one of the biggest and most complex environmental conventions of its kind, dealing with a range of species. This section however only identifies the most important cycad enforcement components.

CITES is also known as the Washington Convention as it was signed in Washington, D.C. on 3 March 1973. International co-operation is essential to protect species of wild fauna and flora from over-exploitation as a result of international trade. Currently there are 181 parties to the convention.  CITES establishes the necessary international legal framework for the regulation of trade in endangered species. However, the Parties are under an obligation to ensure these provisions are enacted in their national laws (CITES is not a self-executing treaty). 

The aims of CITES
CITES aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES does not deal with all aspects of wildlife conservation, it only deals with international wildlife trade of those species listed on the CITES appendices. CITES is not opposed to wildlife trade and recognises that sustainable wildlife trade can be used to benefit local communities, but at the same time all wildlife trade needs to be managed.

CITES and South Africa
South Africa was the 15th country to sign up with CITES and the convention became binding on South Africa as from 13 October 1975. CITES is enforceable in South Africa in terms of section 59 of NEMBA, which provides that the Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs:

  1. must monitor compliance in the Republic with CITES;
  2. must consult the scientific authority on issues relating to trade in specimens of endangered species regulated by CITES;
  3. must prepare and submit reports and documents in accordance with the Republic’s obligations in terms of CITES;
  4. may provide administrative and technical support services and advice to organs of state to ensure the effective  implementation and enforcement of CITES;
  5. may make information and documentation relating to CITES publicly available; and
  6. may prescribe a system for the registration of institutions, ranching operations, nurseries, captive breeding operations and other facilities.

South Africa has also passed regulations to NEMBA specific to CITES [click here for CITES regulations].

In South Africa the Department of Environmental Affairs is the CITES National Management Authority and SANBI assumes overall responsibility as the National Scientific Authority. A Management and Scientific Authority is also found in each of the nine provinces.

The CITES has three Appendices that include lists of animals and plants that are or could be affected by international trade. Each of the Appendices affords different levels of protection. The specimens listed on the CITES Appendices also includes parts and derivatives of that species unless specifically excluded through the annotations. This means the cycad does not have to be in its whole form, seeds, leafs, stems alone would be sufficient to be protected by CITES.

All Encephalartos and Strangeria cycad species are listed under CITES Appendix I. Appendix I applies the strictest measure of trade control and includes species that are threatened with extinction. In the case of South Africa there are exemptions regarding the trade of Appendix I artificially propagated Encephalartos cycads for commercial purposes from TOPS registered nurseries. In the case of South Africa there are exemptions regarding the trade of Appendix I artificially propagated Encephalartos cycads for commercial purposes from TOPS registered nurseries, which in this case, are treated as Appendix II specimens.

For more information on CITES please visit: