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CITES: UK Scientific Authority

Implementing Kew’s role as the UK Scientific Authority for Plants under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

RBG Kew provides scientific support and advice to the UK Government to allow it to fulfill its commitments under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the European Union Wildlife Trade Regulations. The main tasks of the Scientific Authority are to:

  • provide independent scientific advice (including a non-detriment finding) to the UK CITES Management Authority (Defra – Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency -AHVLA) on applications for CITES permits and on the application of CITES and the European Union Regulations implementing CITES within member States;
  • provide scientific advice to support policy development to the UK CITES Management Authority (Defra – International Species Protection Team;
  • undertake research into key plant groups affected, or that may become affected, by trade and CITES legislation;
  • work with and train enforcement officials on the inspection, identification, holding and disposal of detained or seized CITES material; and
  • represent the UK Scientific Authority at technical meetings, including the CITES Plants Committee, Conference of the Parties (CoP) and the Scientific Review Group of the European Union.

This work is covered by Service Level Agreements with Defra and AHVLA which lay down detailed outputs and milestones on an annual basis. The outputs include: advice on permit applications, plant inspections, briefing documents and position papers; membership of UK delegations at meetings and international negotiations;  training material for UK enforcement officials and trained individuals. In this period we advised on 20,000 applications to import, export, or hold species covered by the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. These applications cover, inter alia, timber, live plants, traditional medicines, cosmetics and extracts.

The team made a significant contribution to the UK and European Union (EU) positions and briefings at two meetings of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP). At the CoP members of the team chaired working groups and negotiated with third party countries on behalf of the European Union as well as leading on the preparation of a range of the formal speaking notes for the EU Presidency, while also attending and negotiating at the preparatory meetings of the Working Group of the Council of EU Environment Ministers. In addition, briefings were prepared for some 50 EU meetings and 12 CITES technical meetings. Team members were part of UK delegations to over 25 UN and EU CITES meetings, leading four of these and chairing two working groups of the CITES Plants Committee at each of its meetings. Over 50 UK CITES meetings were attended covering implementation and enforcement of the Convention, including regular meetings with Non-Government Organisation’s and trade representatives. Over this period more than 900 UK Police, Customs Officers and Wildlife Inspectors have been trained on CITES implementation for plants.

During this period the CITES work carried out by the team received written commendations from the UK Minister for Natural and Marine Environment and the Presidency of the 27 member State European Union.

Key papers published since 2006

This work produces a wide variety of advice and briefing material for the extensive range of national and international meeting outlined above. By its nature this material is not formally published and is frequently of a confidential nature.

Project partners and collaborators


Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)
The Police
UK Border Agency
Durrell Institute of Conservation Ecology (DICE)

European Union

CITES Management and Scientific Authorities of the 27 EU member States
Commission of the European Communities


CITES Management and Scientific Authorities of the 175 Parties to the Convention
CITES Secretariat
United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Non-Government Organisations

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
Sustainable Users Network (SUN)
Wildlife Link
Fauna and Flora International (FFI)

Project funders


Defra – Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency - AHVLA
Defra – International Species Protection Team
Commission of the European Communities