Endangered species and the international traveller

Are you a Canadian travelling abroad or a tourist to Canada?

Will you be bringing souvenirs, exotic pets, personal or household items across international borders?

In order to avoid contributing to illegal trade in endangered species, having your items confiscated at the border, or receiving tickets, fines or prosecution, it is your responsibility to know and comply with applicable wildlife trade regulations.

Green Iguana; Elephant Ivory; Peregrine Falcon; Prickly Pear Cactus
Green Iguana; Elephant Ivory; Peregrine Falcon; Prickly Pear Cactus
Photo: © Environment Canada

International convention on wildlife trade

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

To prevent over-exploitation of wildlife species through international trade and illegal poaching, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was formed on July 1, 1975. CITES is an international agreement to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) is the legislation through which Canada meets its international obligations under CITES.

Currently, there are over 170 member countries that are parties to the Convention. Over 5 000 animal species and over 29 000 plant species are listed under CITES.

Imports and exports of species listed under CITES are controlled through a permit system. It is illegal to bring a CITES-listed species or its parts and derivatives across Canadian and many international borders without the appropriate CITES permits. CITES-listed animals and plants are classified into one of three appendices, depending upon how endangered they are.

WAPPRIITA - Canada's wildlife trade law

Galapagos Giant Turtoise
Galapagos Giant Turtoise
Photo: © Getty Images

In Canada, CITES is administered by Environment Canada and is implemented under WAPPRIITA.

Under sections 6 to 9 of WAPPRIITA, it is unlawful to:

  1. Import or possess any wild species of animal or plant, including their parts and derivatives that were obtained or exported illegally from another country. This is not restricted to CITES-listed species.
  2. Import or export CITES-listed species without the appropriate permits.
  3. In most cases, offer for sale or possess CITES Appendix I wild species.

Importing and exporting includes shipping by air, sea and rail, by mail and courier, and in personal luggage.

WAPPRIITA - Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act - is the legislation through which Canada meets its international obligations under CITES. In Canada, imports and exports of species listed under CITES are controlled through a permit system under WAPPRIITA.
WAPPRIITA Schedule I
Includes all species listed in the CITES appendices (Appendix I, II and III)
CITES Appendix
WAPPRIITA Schedule I
Includes all species listed in the CITES appendices (Appendix I, II and III)
Classification
WAPPRIITA Schedule I
Includes all species listed in the CITES appendices (Appendix I, II and III)
CITES
Permit Requirements
WAPPRIITA Schedule I
Includes all species listed in the CITES appendices (Appendix I, II and III)
Species Examples
Appendix I Species threatened with extinction that are or may be affected by trade. CITES Export Permit or a CITES Re-Export Certificate from country of export/re-export and a CITES Import Permit from country of import.
Note: Trade in these species for commercial purposes is generally prohibited.
  • Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)
  • Monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana)
  • Arowana (Scleropages formosus)
  • Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)
  • Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera alexandrae)
Appendix II Species that are not currently considered threatened with extinction but could become so if their trade is not strictly regulated. Includes species that are listed because they are similar in appearance to other listed species. CITES Export Permit or a CITES Re-Export Certificate from country of export/re-export.
  • American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
  • Tree frogs (Agalychnis spp.)
  • Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
  • Hoodia (Hoodia spp.)
  • Venus fly-trap (Dionaea muscipula)
  • Northern river otter (Lontra canadensis)
  • Polar bear (Ursus maritimus)
  • Cocobolo rosewood - Guatemala (Dalbergia retusa)
Appendix III Species under special management in certain countries to prevent or restrict exploitation. CITES Export Permit or a CITES Certificate of Origin from country of export/re-export.
  • Walrus - Canada (Odobenus rosmarus)
  • Pink coral - China(Corallium secundum)
  • Alligatorsnapping turtle - USA(Macrochelys temminckii)

WAPPRIITA Schedule II

Lists the animal and plant species requiring an import permit. These species are not listed in the CITES appendices. These are species that may pose a risk to Canadian ecosystems.

WAPPRIITA Schedule III

Lists the CITES species that are recognized as endangered or threatened within Canada.

Fisher's Lovebird; Pangolin; Prickly Pear Cactus; Leopard
Fisher's Lovebird; Pangolin; Prickly Pear Cactus; Leopard
Photo: © Environment Canada

A complete list of CITES species listed in the CITES appendices is published on Environment Canada's website. In order to do your research, it is advisable to know the scientific name of the species.

WAPPRIITA Schedule I, II and III listed species can be found on the Department of Justice Canada's website.

You must have all necessary permits before you bring a CITES-listed species, or an item with a part/derivative of a CITES-listed species, across an international border. The complete list of CITES member countries and contact information can be found on cites.org website.

When an animal is listed under CITES, permit requirements apply to live specimens and all parts or derivatives of that species. When a plant is listed under CITES, permit requirements apply to live specimens and all parts or derivatives of that species unless the listing is annotated to specify the regulated items.

Parts and derivatives can be included in items such as clothing, jewellery, musical instruments, herbal medicines, cosmetic creams and food products.

Did You Know?

  • All cats, except for the domestic cat, are protected under CITES. Many spotted cats are Appendix I species.
  • All but four species of parrots are regulated under CITES.
  • Orchids account for the majority of the species listed in the CITES appendices.

How the law applies to you

Collection of elephant ivory artifacts
Collection of elephant ivory artifacts
Photo: © Environment Canada

Souvenirs

Can you bring back souvenirs made from CITES-listed species?

If the item is a CITES Appendix I species,or is made with their parts or derivatives, then the answer in most cases is no.

If the item is a CITES Appendix II or III species, or is made with their parts or derivatives, then the answer in most cases is yes, as long as you have the appropriate permits.

Exercise Caution

  • You may find that souvenirs made from animals and plants listed in CITES Appendix I are freely sold in the country you are visiting. The fact that they are available does not mean that they can be legally bought or sold, or brought across the border. When in doubt, don't buy. Your good judgment may help to protect an endangered species and could prevent confiscation of an illegal souvenir at the border.
  • Be aware that vendors, although selling legal items, may not be aware of the permit requirements for their import or export. Despite what they may say, it is advisable to check for yourself. You do not want a surprise at the border.
Leather purse made of cobra skin
Leather purse made of cobra skin
Photo: © Environment Canada

Permit Exemptions - You may bring souvenirs into Canada made from CITES Appendix II and III species without a CITES export permit from the country visited, as long as you have the souvenirs on your person or in your accompanying personal baggage.

CITES permits are always needed to export live Appendix II and III plants and animals.

Canadian Tourists Abroad

Your CITES permit may not always be enough. Some countries have additional permit requirements in order to legally take items made from wildlife species out of their jurisdictions. Canada upholds these requirements. It is therefore advisable to check with the government of the country you are visiting before purchasing wildlife products.

Tourists to Canada

A Canadian CITES export permit is needed to export a souvenir made from a species that is recognized as endangered or threatened in Canada and listed under WAPPRIITA Schedule III.

Before attempting to export a souvenir from Canada, find out if your home country's government requires any additional permits or enforces any prohibitions.

Be aware that Canada's Species at Risk Act , the Migratory Birds Convention Act ,1994 , and some provincial/territorial regulations also protect wildlife species by including provisions relating to the possession, buying, selling and trading of Canadian species. It is your responsibility to comply with the applicable Canadian wildlife regulations.

Bengal Cat
Bengal Cat
Photo: © thinkstockphotos.com

Travelling with exotic pets

If you are changing residences across international borders with an exotic pet listed in CITES Appendix I, you must obtain both a CITES import permit from the country you are moving to and a CITES export permit from the country you are moving from.

If your exotic pet is listed in CITES Appendix II or III, usually you need to obtain only a CITES export permit from the exporting country. Some countries require import permits as well, so check before you travel.

Examples of exotic pets

African Grey Parrot
African Grey Parrot
Photo: © thinkstockphotos.com
  • Parrots
  • Many lizards
  • Many turtles
  • Hybrid cats
  • Some fish
  • Some snakes

What if I take my pet into or out of Canada temporarily?

If you are a resident of Canada and intend to take your pet temporarily and frequently out of Canada strictly for personal purposes, you can apply to the Canadian CITES Management Authority for a CITES Certificate of Ownership. This certificate, which is also known as a "pet passport," is valid for a period of three years, authorizes multiple exports and re-imports, and is recognized by certain countries (e.g. USA).

Are there any other requirements?

Importing animals into Canada is also controlled under the Health of Animals Act administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Other countries may also have requirements so check before you travel.

When shipping live animals by air, you must comply with the International Air Transport Association Live Animals Regulations to protect their health. Check with the airline for more information. For other means of transport, you are to follow the CITES Guidelines for Transport.

Personal and household effects

A personal or household effect is an item that is personally owned by you or is part of your household. For the purposes of CITES, it is a plant or a dead animal, or parts or derivatives of a plant or dead animal.

Personal effects must be part of your clothing or accessories, or it must be carried in your accompanying personal baggage.

Household effects are part of the household belongings that you ship to your new residence when you are moving to or from Canada. It can also be part of an inheritance from an estate that is imported to or exported from Canada.

These goods must be listed on your Canada Border Services Agency's Personal Effects Accounting Document (Customs Form B4).

Permit Exemptions - For many but not all personal and household effects, you do not have to obtain the CITES import and export permits pertaining to species listed in any of the CITES appendices. However, these goods must not be intended for commercial purposes.

What happens if you do not comply with the law?

The goods will be seized, and you may receive a warning or a ticket, or fines of up to $150,000 and/or up to fiveyears in jail for individuals, and fines of up to $300,000 for businesses. A separate fine can be imposed for every illegal item. For instance, an individual could be charged for every box of a productcontaining endangered species parts or derivatives. Beginning in late 2012, serious offences may be subject to a broader range of penalties and higher fines. Additional information can be obtained by contacting the Environment Canada Inquiry Centre at enviroinfo@ec.gc.ca or 1-800-668-6767.

Remember

  • As a traveller crossing international borders, it is your responsibility to be aware of and adhere to CITES and any other wildlife trade regulations that apply in the country you are entering or leaving. Check the requirements of both countries before you attempt to bring wildlife species or products across their borders.
  • You must obtain all necessary permits before your wildlife species or item made with wildlife parts or derivatives crosses international borders, and your permits must be presented and validated at the border.
  • In most cases, commercial trade of CITES Appendix I Wild species is prohibited. Limited commercial trade of captive-bred CITES Appendix I animal species is allowed only from CITES-registered facilities.
  • Commercial trade in cultivated CITES Appendix I plants and CITES Appendix II or III species or products containing their parts or derivatives is allowed, but only if the necessary CITES permits were obtained before the importation or exportation occurs.
  • Exercise Caution - Just because something is for sale does not mean that it is legal to trade.

Permit exemptions

Note: These exemptions are recognized by Canada, but may not be by the other country to or from which you are travelling.

no caption text
blank Tourist Souvenirs Personal Effects Household Effects
Applies to
  • All individuals entering or leaving Canada
  • CITES Appendix II or III
  • All individuals entering or leaving Canada
  • CITES Appendix I, II or III
  • All individuals entering or leaving Canada
  • CITES Appendix I, II or III
Conditions Item was acquired by an individual outside of his or her country of residence during a trip from which he or she is returning.
Item is part of the individual's clothing or accessories or personal accompanied baggage.
Item was owned by the individual in his or her country of residence.
Item is part of the individual's clothing or accessories or personal accompanied baggage.
Owned and possessed by the individual in his or her country of residence.
Forms part of individual's household belongings being shipped to his or her new residence, or forms part of an inheritance from an estate.
Includes (These do not require CITES permits as long as conditions for exemption are met)

Dead plants or dead animals, including their parts and derivatives. Examples:

  • Queen conch shells
  • Coral jewellery and dead coral skeletons
  • Cactus rainsticks

Live and dead plants, and dead animals only, including their parts and derivatives. Examples:

  • Leather products such as handbags and shoes made of alligator, caiman, crocodile, monitor lizard, tegu, iguana or boa
  • Live orchids or cacti
  • Ivory sculptures

Live and dead plants, and dead animals only, including their parts and derivatives. Examples:

  • Leather products such as handbags and shoes made of alligator, caiman, crocodile, monitor lizard, tegu, iguana or boa
  • Live orchids or cacti
  • Ivory sculptures
Excludes (CITES permits required)
  • Appendix I species
  • Live animals and plants

Examples:

  • Sea turtle products (shell, meat and leather products)
  • Shahtoosh shawls made from Tibetan antelope
  • Products (such as purses, wallets, shoes, belts) from many crocodile species
  • Live animals

Examples:

  • Exotic pets such as parrots, many lizards, hybrid cats
  • Arowana
  • Gyrfalcon used for falconry
  • Live animals

Examples:

  • Exotic pets such as parrots, many lizards, hybrid cats
  • Arowana
  • Gyrfalcon used for falconry
Excludes (CITES permits required) For Canada, any species listed in WAPPRIITA Schedule II (e.g. Mongoose) or III (e.g. Leatherback seaturtle,Peregrine falcon,Goldenseal, Eastern prickly-pear cactus, American ginseng). For Canada, any species listed in WAPPRIITA Schedule II (e.g. Mongoose) or III (e.g. Leatherback seaturtle,Peregrine falcon,Goldenseal, Eastern prickly-pear cactus, American ginseng). For Canada, any species listed in WAPPRIITA Schedule II (e.g. Mongoose) or III (e.g. Leatherback seaturtle,Peregrine falcon,Goldenseal, Eastern prickly-pear cactus, American ginseng).

For more information on CITES and WAPPRIITA.

Rhinoceros
Rhinoceros
Photo: © Corel Corporation

For information on how and where to apply for a CITES permit, contact Environment Canada at:
cites@ec.gc.ca

Management Authority
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment Canada
Ottawa ON K1A 0H3
Telephone: 1-800-668-6767 (toll-free number)
or 819-997-1840 (National Capital Region)
Fax: 819-953-6283

The information presented in this brochure is not to be interpreted as legal advice. If there is a discrepancy with the information presented in the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, the legislation prevails.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: