The Washington convention on international trade of species of fauna and flora in danger of extinction (C.I.T.E.S.) is responsible for controlling products deriving from said species in that commercial exploitation is the main cause of their endangerment and extinction.

This law is currently applied by more than 180 Countries and represents the most important legal tool to guarantee the conservation of the biodiversity of our planet.

The species at risk of extinction are subdivided as follows:

  1. Protected species, in the strictest sense of the word (any form of trade is prohibited; use may be allowed only under extraordinary circumstances).
  2. Species subject to control (trade must be compatible with their survival and is subject to authorisation via CITES certification).
  3. Species subject to control by individual member nations (typically for nations that seek to protect particular endemic species).

The convention does not exclude that member states can implement even more restrictive control measures and prohibitions. In Italy the actuation of the Washington Convention is entrusted to various ministries: Ministry of the Environment, Ministry for Economic Development, and Ministry for Agricultural, Food, and Forest Policies. The latter, according to current laws, is supported by the specialists of the C.I.T.E.S. Nucleus of the Carabinieri (Italian state police) who are responsible for issuing specific authorisation for the re-exportation and trade of species protected by the Conventìon (live specimens, parts and by-products). The above-mentioned nucleus is also responsible for fighting the traffic of protected species on domestic territory.

When buying an object or a work of art, it is therefore necessary to verify, before the purchase, if the parts comprising it belong to a species protected by the convention.

It is obligatory to request the authorisation certificate for all objects, made by anyone and during any period of time, it if contains elements of the species listed. The CITES authorisation is necessary for the sale on Italian soil, as well as for exportation, and is issued following an expert assessment for the purpose of identifying the material and the period of the object in question. This is followed by the request for the free circulation certificate at the Superintendency (regional board of the ministry of cultural heritage and environmental conservation).

The procedure can be outlined as follows: