Research Article

DOI :10.26650/mecmua.2022.80.2.0010   IUP :10.26650/mecmua.2022.80.2.0010    Full Text (PDF)

CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life

Ali Kerem Kayhan

The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus requires revisiting many global issues, One of these being is the wildlife trade and its adverse effects. Scientific studies have revealed the possibility that the SARS-CoV-2, a zoonotic virus, was transmitted to humans through an endangered wild species (pangolin). Despite pangolins being protected by strict rules under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) they are still the subject of illegal trade. CITES is a comprehensive global convention regulating trade of endangered wildlife species. The convention does not contain any regulations for preventing diseases that threaten human life. However, CITES can indirectly play a role by regulating international trade. This article discusses the possible role CITES and its mechanisms have in preventing SARS-CoV-2 and similar zoonotic viruses. For this purpose, the study examines the proposals for revisions to CITES, including the integration of species shipment regulations and the addition of a new appendix involving animal health. Moreover, the study evaluates proposals to completely ban the trade of wildlife species and the possibility of having CITES intervene in domestic trade. Lastly, the article discusses proposals for recognizing illegal trade as a serious international crime. The main purpose of CITES is to regulate and protect the trade of endangered wild species. No matter what future arrangements are made, acting very meticulously will be necessary by taking into account the concerns of state parties, as this convention depends on states implementing the arrangements.

DOI :10.26650/mecmua.2022.80.2.0010   IUP :10.26650/mecmua.2022.80.2.0010    Full Text (PDF)

İnsan Hayatını Tehdit Eden Salgınlarla Mücadelede Küresel Bir Araç Olarak CITES

Ali Kerem Kayhan

SARS-CoV-2 virüsünün yol açtığı ve tüm dünyayı etkisi altına alan COVID-19 pandemisi, küresel düzeyde sorgulamalara yol açmış ve birçok meselenin yeniden ele alınmasını gerektirmiştir. Bu meselelerden biri de yaban hayatına ait türlerin ticareti ve bu ticaretin etkileridir. Çeşitli bilimsel araştırmalarda zoonatik bir virüs olan SARS-CoV-2’nin nesli tükenmekte olan yabani bir türün (pangolin) aracılığı ile insanlara bulaşma ihtimali ortaya çıkmıştır. Pangolin, yabani türlerin ticaretini düzenleyen CITES himayesinde sıkı kurallar ile korunan bir tür olmasına rağmen yoğun bir biçimde yasadışı ticarete konu olmaktadır. CITES, nesli tehdit altındaki canlıların ticaretini kurallara bağlı olarak işleten uluslararası bir sözleşmedir. Sözleşme, insan hayatını tehdit eden hastalıkların önlenmesine yönelik herhangi bir düzenleme içermez. Ancak uluslararası ticareti düzenleyerek dolaylı olarak zoonatik virüsler ile mücadelede rol oynayabilir. Bu çalışmada SARSCoV-2 ve benzeri zoonatik virüsler ile mücadelede CITES’in muhtemel rolü, CITES’in elindeki araçlar ve CITES’ın revizyonu üzerinde durulacaktır. Bu amaçla, çalışmada öncelikle CITES içerisinde sevkiyatı yapılan türlerin sağlıklarının korunmasına yönelik düzenlemeler getirilmesi ve hayvan sağlığını içerecek yeni bir sınıflandırma eklenmesi incelenmektedir. Bunun yanında CITES’ın iç ticarete müdahale yolları üzerinde durularak yaban hayatına ait türlerin ticaretinin tamamen yasaklanması önerileri değerlendirilmektedir. Son olarak yasadışı ticaretin ağır bir uluslararası suç olarak kabul edilmesi yönündeki öneriler ele alınmaktadır. CITES’ın ana amacı nesli tükenmekte olan yabani türlerin ticaretinin düzenlenerek korunmasıdır. Bu nedenle CITES’ın geliştirilmesi ve değiştirilmesine yönelik tüm yaklaşımlar CITES’ın başarıları göz önünde bulundurularak yapılmalıdır. CITES’ın radikal bir biçimde genişletilerek temel amacından uzaklaşmaması veya zorlaştırıcı hükümler ile taraf devletleri kapsayıcılığının azalmaması gerekir. 


The SARS-CoV-2 virus has caused a pandemic and is a zoonotic virus that has spread from animals to humans. Studies show that the virus most likely emerged from a wet market in China where wild animals are kept and traded under poor conditions. SARS-CoV-2 has been categorized as a bat-derived virus in the coronavirus family. Scientific research has indicated that an intermediate host should have occurred for the virus to have transferred from bats to humans. Pangolin is a species unique to Asia and has been identified as the probable link in this process. The species is highly demanded and illegally traded at a large scale. The pangolin species has been listed as a species of concern by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and its international trade is subject to strict rules.

CITES is a comprehensive global convention regulating wildlife trade regarding endangered species. The convention was first enacted in 1975 and now has 182 parties. The convention’s aim is to regulate the trade of endangered species in order to limit their exploitation. In this process three appendices have been established. Appendix I specifically restricts the trade of endangered species. Appendix II protects species that may be threatened with extinction by requiring their trade to be controlled. Appendix III prevents species that may be facing excessive consumption at the request of a party already involved in the trade of said species that need assistance in preventing other countries from exploiting them. The implementation of the convention depends on the cooperation of the Convention Secretariat, the parties, and international organizations such as INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization. The convention works through a licensing system across borders to identify illegal trade. The exporting and importing states parties in this structure have different obligations regarding the monitoring of trade.

The possible link between SARS-CoV-2 and endangered species (i.e., the pangolin) has raised several questions regarding CITES. If the illegal trade of endangered species plays a role in a zoonotic disease, is this because of CITES being insufficiently implemented? If so, can CITES or its mechanisms be strengthened to tackle this problem? Lastly, can CITES help prevent future global zoonotic diseases such as SARS-CoV-2? This article aims to answer these questions.

Since the establishment of CITES, various reforms and proposals for amendments to it have been suggested by NGOs and scholars. The most assertive approaches involve banning wildlife trade altogether and developing CITES to intervene in domestic trade. However, these approaches might actually harm CITES. Keeping in mind developing countries’ inability regarding controlling and monitoring wildlife trade, any strict regulations or prohibitions may move the trade to the black market.

A recent proposal from Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime is an amendment to CITES that will establish a new list (Appendix IV) containing the species that pose a threat to public and/or animal health. However, creating a new list may take years and might not provide the intended results, because CITES lacks the funding mechanism to implement new regulations like these.

Another issue of debate involves considering illegal wildlife trade as a serious international crime. The Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime suggests regulating illegal wildlife trade under organized crime through new protocol within the framework of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC). However, this would leave personal offenses out of the structure. States’ willingness to add a new binding protocol may additionally be another challenge.

Illegal wildlife trade is a threat to both public and animal health. To tackle this problem, scholars propose regulations for protecting species that are transported and providing standard care for captured species and rules for breeding. These suggestions may help deal with zoonotic diseases. Having the CITES system adopt standards would be easier and is achievable through decisions made at a Conference of the Parties.

The overall main purpose of CITES is to regulate and protect endangered wild species. Statistics show that CITES as one of the oldest environmental protection conventions has actually been successful in combating illegal trade. The long-term observations of wildlife show that, once a species is listed in CITES, their population tends to increase in numbers. For this reason, all suggestions for amendments and revisions should be made by taking into account the achievements of the Convention. 

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Kayhan, A.K. (2022). CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life. Istanbul Law Review, 80(2), 683-720.


Kayhan A K. CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life. Istanbul Law Review. 2022;80(2):683-720.


Kayhan, A.K. CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life. Istanbul Law Review, [Publisher Location], v. 80, n. 2, p. 683-720, 2022.

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Kayhan, Ali Kerem,. 2022. “CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life.” Istanbul Law Review 80, no. 2: 683-720.

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Kayhan, Ali Kerem,. CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life.” Istanbul Law Review 80, no. 2 (Jul. 2024): 683-720.

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Kayhan, AK 2022, 'CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life', Istanbul Law Review, vol. 80, no. 2, pp. 683-720, viewed 24 Jul. 2024,

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Kayhan, A.K. (2022) ‘CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life’, Istanbul Law Review, 80(2), pp. 683-720. (24 Jul. 2024).


Kayhan, Ali Kerem,. CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life.” Istanbul Law Review, vol. 80, no. 2, 2022, pp. 683-720. [Database Container],


Kayhan AK. CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life. Istanbul Law Review [Internet]. 24 Jul. 2024 [cited 24 Jul. 2024];80(2):683-720. Available from: doi: 10.26650/mecmua.2022.80.2.0010


Kayhan, AliKerem. CITES as an International Instrument Against Pandemics that Threaten Human Life”. Istanbul Law Review 80/2 (Jul. 2024): 683-720.


Published Online22.07.2022


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