TigerPhoto: Mauro Luna/USFWS

Delegates from around the globe are converging on the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok, Thailand, this week for the CITES convention, the world’s most influential meeting on international wildlife trade.

Short for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES is an international agreement designed to regulate the sustainable trade of vulnerable animal and plant species.

The convention protects wildlife by listing them under three appendices, depending on the level of protection needed.

  • Appendix I covers species threatened with exinction. All international commercial trade of the 530 species contained in this appendix is prohibited.
  • Appendix II, which accounts for the majority of wildlife regulated by CITES, includes species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but are still vulnerable. Although international commercial trade of these species is allowed, it is strictly controlled.
  • Appendix III contains species that are protected within the borders of a member country, but need additional assistance from the Convention in controlling the trade.
Although the CITES appendices contain more than 30,000 plants and animal species, here are just a few to consider.
* * * 
 
Polar bear mother and cub

Photo: Scott Schliebe/USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Polar bears

Environmentalists' favorite bear will have another ally this year at the CITES convention, as the U.K. announced that it will support a U.S. proposal to list polar bears in CITES Appendix I, which would prohibit international trade for primarily commercial purposes.

At CoP16, the 27 member states of the EU vote as a bloc, which means the U.K. will advocate for the U.S. proposal for polar bears within collective EU negotiations.

* * * 
 
Egyptian Vulture

Photo: Michael Ransburg/USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Egyptian vulture

Although this year's CITES convention is being held in Bangkok, Thailand, the last meeting took place in 2010 in Doha, Quatar, where the endangered Egyptian vulture calls home.

* * * 
 
Walrus

Photo: Joel Garlich-Miller/USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Walrus

The walrus, a native species of Canada, is listed under Appendix III, which enables the country to receive international assistance in controlling the trade of this species, as well as ensuring they are protected internationally.

* * * 
 
Slow Loris

Photo: Daniel Chong Kah Fui/USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Slow Loris

These adorable primates spend most of their lives in the trees foraging at night for fruit, bugs, and small reptiles. As victims to a large illegal pet trade, slow lorises are protected under CITES Appendix I.

* * * 
 
Tomato frog

Photo: Frank Vassen/USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Tomato frog

Listed under CITES Appendix I due to an unsustainable pet trade, this vibrant ambphibian is found in Madagascar and possesses an amazing defense mechanism. When a predator tries to eat the frog, its skin secretes a thick fluid that sticks to the mouth and eyes of the predator, causing the animal to release the frog.

* * * 
 
Whitetip shark

Photo: Brian Skerry/USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Oceanic whitetip shark

The U.S. is supporting several shark and ray proposals at the 2013 CITES meeting, and backing from other countries is critical to advance these proposals. Although oceanic whitetip shark populations were considered very abundant back in the 1970s, a 2003 study concluded that these numbers have dropped 70% between 1990 and 2000.

* * * 
 
Brown bear

Photo: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Brown bear

In addition to the multitude of exotic wildlife species that CITES protects, it also conserves many U.S. native species like the brown bear, which is listed under CITES Appendix II. Arguably the largest land-based predator in the world, this incredible animal was once found throughout the world. The bear's range has since decreased, and is now primarily found in Russia, Canada and the U.S.

* * * 
 
Paddlefish

Photo: USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

American Paddlefish

Listed under Appendix II, the American Paddlefish is a vulnerable freshwater species that is found in the Southeast United States and can grow to be over five feet long. The unusual snout contains electroreceptors that assist in hunting zooplankton, which is filtered through its "gill rakers," similar to basking shark.

* * * 
 
Dabb Lizard

Photo: Josh More/USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Dabb lizard

The Dabb lizard, a herbivours spiny-tailed reptile listed under Appendix II, is found in Bahrain, which became the 176th Party to the Convention when it joined in 2012.

* * * 
 
Manta Ray

Photo: Des Paroz/USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Manta rays

Among the many proposals submitted to CoP16 is one by Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador to list manta rays in CITES Appendix II. Due to their long lifespans and low rate of reproduction, manta rays are unable to replenish their population fast enough in the face of overfishing.

* * * 
 
Spotted turtle

Photo: Todd Pierson/USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Spotted turtle

With over half of the world's freshwater turtle species threatened with extinction, the U.S has proposed three species of North American turtles for inclusion into Appendix II, including the spotted turtle (pictured), the diamondback terrapin and the Blanding's turtle. Although the listing would not ban the international trade or possession of the species, it would regulate international trade to ensure that it is legal and sustainable.

* * *