Importation of hunting trophies of CITES species

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Importation of hunting trophies of CITES species into the European Union is made through several Community Regulations implementing the CITES Convention (the main ones are 338/1997 and 865/2006) and their implementing directives.

For imports into the EU of specimens of species in Annexes A and B of the Regulation (EC) No 338/97, an import permit is required on the basis of an opinion that the extraction of the natural environment from the specimen will not have a harmful effect on the conservation status of  the species or on the extent of the territory occupied by the population of the species concerned.

The following questions are most likely to arise in relation to imports of game trophies:

Is trophy hunting important for the conservation of threatened species?

The current global process of loss of animal biodiversity linked to the increase in international poaching in its various versions has become a major problem for the conservation of an increasing number of wild species2. This process extends to areas managed by individuals or local communities as well as National Parks themselves. However, this type of large-scale poaching is more controlled within privately managed or community-managed hunting areas,3 owing to the continuous monitoring of owners and managers of these lands, where many of the populations of the most threatened species (elephants, lions or rhinos) find a safe haven4. In addition, most of these hunting areas, being located in the vicinity of National Parks or reserves, constitute for the protected natural areas an effective shield of protection and vigilance against poaching. For example, in the countries of Central and Eastern Africa5 hunting areas occupy 695,232 km2 (14.3% of the area of these countries), while national parks occupy 420,119 km2 (8.6%).

Due to the above, hunting areas, when well-managed, are recognized as a fundamental tool for the conservation of wildlife worldwide3


1Duties of the CITESs scientific authorities and scientific review group under regulations (EC) nº 338/97 and (EC) no 865/2006.
2Ripple, W. J., Chapron, G., López-Bao, J. V., Durant, S. M., & Woodroffe, R. (2016). Conserving the world’s megafauna and biodiversity: the fierce urgency of now. Bioscience.
3IUCN trophy hunting is a game protected by a program administered by a government, community organization, NGO or other legitimate body, in which an animal with specific trophy characteristics is hunted and in small numbers and generally by a Hunter outside the local area or coming from a country other than where they are hunted.
4IUCN 2012. IUCN SSC Guiding principles on trophy hunting as a tool for creating conservation  incentives. Ver. 1.0. IUCN, Gland.
5Lindsey, P. A., Roulet, P. A., & Romanach, S. S. (2007). Economic and conservation significance of the trophy hunting industry in sub-Saharan Africa. Biological conservation, 134(4), 455-469.  

What is the current problem of the management of territories for the hunting of trophies?

Large-scale poaching is causing the abandonment of these hunting areas by the managers, so that they are left unattended at the mercy of poaching; and on the other hand, the occupation of the territory of these hunting areas abandoned by other uses not compatible with the wild fauna.

How can private initiative contribute to combating illegal trade and poaching?

The management of the territory for hunting, well executed, is a very useful and important tool for conservation, but it has to be developed properly and have a clear framework for imports of trophies from these areas. As guidance there are interesting documents and specific guidelines developed by international conservation institutions and organizations, as well as examples of good practices in the management of the territory for trophy hunts7, 9, 10. All this should serve to make private initiative collaborate effectively with administrations in the fight against illegal trafficking and international poaching of wild species.


7IUCN 2016. Informing decisions on trophy hunting. A Briefing Paper for European Union Decision-makers regarding potential plans for restriction of imports of hunting trophies. IUCN Gland
9Chardonnet, P. & V. Booth. 2015. Guidelines for improving the administration of sustainable hunting in sub-Saharan Africa. FAO sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa.


What is required for the import of a CITES hunting trophy?

For import of hunting trophies in the EU from wild species included in Annex A and B, an import permit issued by the CITES administrative authority is required, which in the case of Spain is the Dirección General de Comercio Internacional e Inversiones del Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad. For the issuance of such a permit, among others, a favorable opinion of the scientific authority is mandatory, which in the case of Spain is the Dirección General de Calidad y Evaluación Ambiental y Medio Natural del MAPAMA.

This opinion is carried out on a case-by-case basis for Annex A species and for six Annex B species also included in Annex XIII to Regulation EC / 870/2015; Southern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum), African Elephant (Loxodonta africana), African lion (Panthera leo), Hippopotamus amphibius, Argali (Ovis ammon) and polar bear (Ursus Maritimus). If, in the opinion of this scientific authority, a significant increase in trade or a deterioration in the conservation status of Annex B species not listed in Annex XIII to Regulation EC / 870/2015 is detected, an opinion would be given on a case-by-case basis.

The opinion is valid for each trophy individually and is based on verification of compliance with three considerations regarding the extraction of the specimen: 

a) has not had or will not have a detrimental effect on the population of origin of the trophy,
b) produces significant and tangible benefits for the conservation of the species and
c) has a positive impact on the local human population or on the environment that coexists with wildlife.

Does the opinion of the scientific authority have repercussions in other EU countries?

The Spanish scientific authority communicates to the other European scientific authorities the conclusions of the opinions it issues so that, in the framework of Community co-ordination, the other scientific authorities take them into account in their own opinions.

How does the scientific authority obtain information to prepare its opinion?

The opinion of the scientific authority takes into account, inter alia, the information on the trophy that the applicant refers through the administrative authority when making the request. However, on numerous occasions this information is not sufficient to complete the opinion; So that the scientific authority should seek the information it needs from other sources (published or not), seek the opinion of the scientific authorities of other Community countries or the scientific authorities of the exporting country. In these cases, the drafting of the relevant opinion can be delayed since, under Article 8 (3) of Regulation 865/2006, "such a decision may be taken only after the satisfactory completion of such consultation”.

What can the applicant do to expedite the preparation of the opinion?

Before proceeding to carry out the activity, it is highly recommended to make a prior consultation with this scientific authority, which will benefit the applicant himself in the preparation of the opinion. In this regard, it is recommended that the applicant submit to the scientific authority any information related to that which the scientific authority takes into account to elaborate its opinion (see following questions), or contact in the country of origin where collect this information, for example through the manager of the hunting area11. This information is included in Annex I and may be submitted voluntarily to the scientific authority to expedite the future elaboration of the opinion.


11For hunting, it refers to the concession, hunting block, community reserve or any other definition of territorial unit of administrative management recognized by the local competent authority, which has a unitary management plan (Chardonnet, P. & V. Booth. 2015. Guidelines for improving the administration of sustainable hunting in sub-Saharan Africa. FAO sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa.

What information about the trophy can be provided for the preparation of the opinion?

Any information about the trophy available to the applicant can be sent to the scientific authority; which would help expedite the resolution of the opinion. Specifically, it is important to refer to:

1. The species to be hunted:

a. Genus, species and, if appropriate, subspecies and common name.

b. Gender.

2. Location where the activity is intended:

a. Country, region and PLACE (hunting area and nearest town) where the specimen will be hunted. Including, if available, reference person and contact information of the hunting area manager (address, telephone and e-mail) for possible consultation by this scientific authority regarding the information on the management of the hunting area.

b. Expected date of hunting.

What information on the management of the hunting area can be provided for the preparation of the opinion?

Any information on management in the area of hunting is of interest, so it is recommended, if the applicant disposes of it, its referral in order to expedite the preparation of the corresponding opinion. In particular, the following information would be of particular interest:

1. Management plan of the hunting area (hunting block, concession, community reserve, etc. or the administratively recognized population management unit) or equivalent exploitation planning document.

This is a very useful document to verify if the population of the species from which the trophy comes is subject to sustainable use, based on adequate monitoring and planning. In this context, it is considered important that this plan or document is endorsed by the administrative or scientific authority of the exporting country. If there is no management plan, the harvest planning document should contain information on the population trend of the species.

2. Reports or documents proving that the management carried out in the hunting area of the trophy results in benefits for the conservation of the species.

In this context, it is considered very relevant to know if the hunting area has enough skilled rangers to keep poaching under control. In any case, the eventual mortalities of specimens for poaching should be taken into account in the management plan, among the factors to consider when establishing annual hunting quotas (adaptive management). It is also considered relevant and for this reason the existence in the hunting area or its near environment of proactive conservation actions for the species is taken into account; Such as actions to improve their habitat, reduction of threats due to conflicts with other land uses, population reinforcement, sanitary control, etc12.

3. Reports or supporting documents regarding the benefits of management in the trophy hunting area to the local population or the environment that coexists with wildlife.

In this context, it is considered relevant that the management of the trophy hunting area has a direct and positive impact on the local human population in the hunting area or its environment (for example: information on the percentage of hunting rates received by the local communities, existence of compensations or implementation of prevention techniques to mitigate the damages of game species to agriculture or livestock, infrastructure improvements, educational or health actions, etc).


12Chardonnet, P. & V. Booth. 2015. Guidelines for improving the administration of sustainable hunting in sub-Saharan Africa. FAO sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa.

What information can be useful to prepare the opinion of trophies already hunted?

In cases where the animal has been hunted, in addition to the trophy data and management of the hunting area detailed in the previous questions, the importer may voluntarily submit to the scientific authority the following information accompanied by the responsible declaration which is attached in Annex I:

1. Permission or certificate of hunting issued by the competent authority of the exporting country, with information of the specimen hunted included in it.
2. Date of hunting
3. Description of the trophy (eg, skin, skull, claws, horn, tusks, etc.) Full body photographs prior to corpse processing and full head detail of the trophy being imported.
4. Hunting and trophy measurement sheet following one of the internationally recognized scales

What other important aspects should be taken into account to facilitate the preparation of the opinion?

In order to allow the preparation of the opinion to be as agile as possible, the aforementioned recommendation to carry out a prior consultation is reiterated, addressed to the scientific authority CITES of Spain

It is also advisable, before starting the activity, to consult the list of species / countries for which entry into the EU is prohibited13 .

If information is forwarded to this scientific authority on the above aspects, it is important that it be complete, in order to make possible the future elaboration of the opinion as much as possible.


13Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/736 of 7 May 2015 prohibiting the introduction into the Union of specimens of certain species of wild fauna and flora


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