World Wildlife Day – the role NZ, DOC and CITES rangers play

Department of Conservation —  03/03/2018

By Stacey Perkins

Today is World Wildlife Day (March 3), a global celebration of the world’s wildlife.

Every year on World Wildlife Day governmental and non-governmental agencies work together to promote awareness and education about the plight of the world’s endangered species. This awareness and education extends to the habitats of these endangered species and the risk of them being wiped off the planet through unsustainable trade and illegal exploitation.

Trade and Wildlife agencies around the world unite to play their part to ensure the survival of our precious endangered species through regulating and monitoring trade between countries and educating people about the role these species play to ensure a healthy and diverse global ecosystem.

Striped gecko. Phoot: © Sabine Bernert.

Striped gecko. Phoot: © Sabine Bernert

The regulation and education on the international trade of endangered species is a mechanism to ensure their survival and the future existence of sustainable populations in the wild.

The framework and agreement that provides guidelines to countries for a consistent approach to this is the ‘Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’ (CITES). Currently there are 183 countries who are party to CITES. The United States of America was the first country to join in January 1974 and New Zealand was the one-hundredth country to join in May 1989.

New Zealand’s role

Each country who is party to CITES must have a Management Authority (MA) for enforcement and border control, a Scientific Authority (SA) for assessing and categorising species listed under CITES and legislation to enforce the intent of the agreement.

In New Zealand the CITES MA and SA is the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the legislation used to enforce CITES is the Trade in Endangered Species (TIES) Act 1989.

The DOC team and personnel responsible for implementing the legislation is the National Compliance Team and CITES Rangers. CITES Rangers work closely with other Government Border Agencies at international ports.

Ivory tusks seized at the border.

World Wildlife Day 2018

The focus and theme for the UN World Wildlife Day 2018 is “Big Cats: Predators Under Threat”. Species included in the ‘big cat’ category are the cheetah, clouded leopard, jaguar, leopard, lion, puma, snow leopard and tiger.

 “These most majestic predators on our planet are facing many and varied threats, primarily caused by human activities, be it habitat loss, poaching, human-wildlife conflict or climate change. ’Predators under threat’ imparts the pressing need for international, national and personal actions to ensure the survival of all big cat species. Challenges arising from human activities must be resolved by people. At a time when a crisis can still be averted, it is essential to take action now”.

CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon

DOC’s role

In New Zealand CITES Rangers are at the front line of enforcement. They check and manage the imports and exports of the many endangered species from the ~35,000 species covered by CITES.. They work closely with other Government Border Agents from Customs and Ministry for Primary Industries at international ports.

Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis) – CITES Appendix II listed species.

Canadian lynx – CITES Appendix II listed species and CITES Ranger Stacey Perkins

CITES Rangers deal with a variety of specimens at the border, including those derived from some of the world’s big cats. Between 2013-17 DOC’s CITES Rangers dealt with 69 Felidae (cat) seizures and surrenders. 58 of those being from lion, panther, tiger and leopard. Specimens included medicines (most prevalent), skins, teeth, a skull and claws.

DOC CITES staff also manage the permits for transferring live endangered species between zoos and wildlife parks. One such location is Orana Wildlife Park, which is the only zoo in New Zealand with a captive breeding programme for cheetah.

Orana Wildlife Park have been the most successful cheetah breeder in Australasia over many years and contribute the conservation of this endangered big cat. Between 2010 and 2014, Orana successfully bred six cheetah cubs. Two were born in November 2013 and four were born in October 2014. Over the last 5 years Orana Wildlife Park have exported 10 live cheetah with CITES permits to support captive breeding programmes in Australia and South Africa.

Cheetah cub at Orana Wildlife Park.

Cheetah cub at Orana Wildlife Park


CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It was signed in Washington D.C. on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975. With 183 Parties (182 countries and the European Union), the Convention remains today one of the world’s most powerful tools for wildlife conservation.

CITES regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their parts and derivatives, to ensure their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of rural communities and the global environment. The CITES permit system seeks to ensure that international trade in listed species is sustainable, legal and traceable.

Learn more about CITES by visiting