Besides environmental factors, a major reason for the worldwide extinction of species is their illegal international trade. To protect endangered species and to counteract this development, there are several legal regulations in Europe, the EU Endangered Species Protection Ordinance (338/97/EC with the Federal Species Protection Ordinance, BArtSchV, as a national extension for Germany) and the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC)

In 1973, the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (also known as CITES) regulated international trade in wild animals. There are currently 183 member states, and since 2015 the European Union has also been a member.

CITES lists all species assessed (38,700 to date) in three appendices defining the level of trade regulation:

  • Appendix I, only exceptional trading events are allowed, subject to export and import permits defining the legal origin, obtention, and detention of the animal.
  • Appendix II gathers the species not as threatened by trade, but which could become in a foreseeable future. Similarly, their trade is controlled through export permits and national laws.
  • Appendix III includes species protected at the national level in at least one party of the convention, their trade can be subject to national laws and export permits as well.

The FOGS project includes around 150 vertebrate species, based on their level of protection, their presence in European wildlife illegal trade (custom seizure data), and the availability of wild individual reference samples. The Fire Salamander, the Hermann’s Tortoise, and the Sungazer, which is endemic to South Africa and traded illegally in Germany, to name a few species.

Routes of illegal wildlife trade to and from Europe.