How DOC leads New Zealand’s implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

CITES is an international agreement

CITES is an international agreement between over 180 governments around the world. Its aim is to ensure that international trade (import/export) in animals and plants including their parts and derivatives does not threaten the survival of the species in the wild. The Department of Conservation leads New Zealand’s implementation of CITES.

Why CITES exists

International trade in wildlife is estimated to be worth billions of dollars every year. The trade in wildlife is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a wide variety of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, leather goods, musical instruments, timber, tourist souvenirs and medicines.

Some animal and plant species are highly traded and when combined with other factors, such as habitat loss, uncontrolled trade is capable of depleting wild populations and threatening some species with extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not currently endangered but CITES helps ensure the sustainability of the trade to safeguard these resources for the future.

Regulation provides protection

Regulation of the international wildlife trade requires international cooperation and CITES provides this framework. CITES affords varying degrees of protection to over 38,000 animal and plant species and countries who are signatories to CITES meet every three years to decide on proposals to add or amend CITES protections.

More about CITES and its functions.

CITES in New Zealand


Each party to CITES must enact their own domestic legislation to bring CITES obligations into force. In New Zealand, this is the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989 (TIES Act) and Trade in Endangered Species Regulations 1991.

CITES Authorities

Each party to CITES must designate a management authority and scientific authority. In New Zealand, both of these functions are led by different parts of the Department of Conservation.

New Zealand CITES Management Authority (NZCMA)

The NZCMA oversees the operational and international components of CITES in New Zealand including granting CITES permits, managing and investigating illegal trade and representing New Zealand and Oceania at international CITES strategy meetings. 

New Zealand CITES Scientific Authorities Committee (NZCSAC)

The NZCSAC oversees the scientific aspects of CITES in New Zealand including making non-detriment findings as they relate to CITES permits, assessing proposals to amend the lists of species requiring CITES trade controls, providing scientific advice to the NZCMA, representing New Zealand and Oceania at international CITES science meetings, and monitoring the status and trade levels of native CITES-listed species.

The NZCSAC includes scientists from CRIs and other government departments, but the day-to-day tasks are undertaken by DOC science staff, and operates independently to the NZCMA.

Partner border agencies

CITES is implemented at New Zealand’s border by the New Zealand Customs Service (NZCS) and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) whose front line staff are designated as Endangered Species Officers under the TIES Act. Border staff play a crucial role in facilitating legal CITES trade, while intercepting instances of illegal trade and referring them to the NZCMA.

What is covered by CITES and how to apply for a permit

Advice on what items are covered by CITES and how to apply for CITES permits.

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