Wildlife Enforcement: Rules re: Sale of Wildlife Items

Letter to Auction House Operators,

Our intent with this letter is to raise your awareness of Canadian federal wildlife legislation which protects certain plants and animal species and how it may affect objects for sale in your establishment.  Objects made from animals and plants regulated under these acts are often found in auction houses. These items would include such things as tiger rugs, raw or carved ivory, pianos with ivory keys, objects containing whalebone or rhinoceros horn, etc.  Canadian law describes conditions for legal possession, sale, and transport in or out of Canada of such items.  Auction House operations should understand and comply with these regulations which are readily available at www.ec.gc.ca and are further outlined below.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement which came into force in Canada on July 3rd, 1975 and aims to prevent the over-exploitation of wildlife threatened by excessive international trade and illegal poaching.  The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act(WAPPRIITA)is the domestic legislation through which Canada meets its international obligations under CITES.  Imports and exports of species listed under CITES are controlled through a permit system.  It is illegal to import or export a CITES-listed species, including its parts or products, without the appropriate CITES permits, as regulated by the domestic legislation of countries that implement CITES.

The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act(WAPPRIITA) is the Canadian federal law through which Canada implements the requirements of CITES.  Conditions of import, export, possession and transport are described in this legislation.  The schedules to the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (WAPTR) under WAPPRRIITA contain the lists of species regulated in Canada– Please review the species listed on the WAPTR schedules and the table of CITES permit requirements on EC’s web site.

CITES classifies species in one of three appendices, with varying levels of protection.  Species that are found on Appendix I of CITES are endangered (threatened with extinction) and have the highest level of protections, with international commercial trade generally prohibited.  Pursuant to WAPPRIITA, it is illegal to knowingly possess a CITES Appendix I plant or animal (such as tiger, most elephants  and rhinos), including their parts or products, for the purpose of distributing (including for sale) or offering to distribute, except if:

·  the person who possesses it establishes a reasonable probability that it was legally imported into Canada; 

·  the animal was bred in captivity or through a captive breeding program; or

·  the plant was artificially propagated. 

If a specimen of a CITES-listed species pre-dates the Convention, or was acquired from the wild before the date on which the species was first added to a CITES appendix, it would be considered a pre-Convention specimen. Commercial trade is permitted under CITES and WAPPRIITA for pre-Convention specimens. Pre-Convention specimens of Appendix I species require a Canadian CITES import permit to be brought into Canada (along with the export or re-export permit from the country of origin) and Canadian CITES re-export certificates to be taken out of Canada.

Environment Canada permitting staff and Wildlife Enforcement Officers will ask for proof of pre-Convention status, which can be established through documentation or reliable scientific means.  This proof can take the form of photos that relate to specific dates, carbon-14 dating, sworn affidavits, wills, letters from experts, etc. - these documents should be on hand prior to the sale.

CITES Appendix I specimens to be imported into Canada must be accompanied by:

·  a Canadian CITES import permit that is issued prior to importation;

·  a CITES export permit or a re-export certificate issued by the CITES authorities of the exporting country.

CITES Appendix I specimens to be exported from Canada must be accompanied by:

·  a Canadian CITES export permit or re-export certificate;

·  a CITES import permit issued by the CITES authorities of the importing country. Note that some countries will not issue a CITES import permit in the cases where the items are pre-Convention, from captive bred animals or from plants which were artificially propagated.

In addition to CITES and its application in Canada via WAPPRIITA, there may be other federal or provincial legislation that may dictate stricter measures for possession, sale, import and export of wildlife parts or products.  For instance, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA) may apply to auction house transactions.  More specifically, the Migratory Birds Regulations (MBR) make it illegal to buy, sell or trade migratory birds, their eggs, nests, carcasses or skins, except as authorized by the Regulations.  In addition, there are limited legal uses of bird feathers described in the MBR but buying or selling migratory bird feathers for millinery or ornamental use is strictly prohibited. 

Please be aware that the possession and/or sale of items by all buyers and sellers involving plants, animals, or their parts or products may need to be accompanied by the proper documentation and permits to comply with Canadian legislation. 

For more information, you can consult Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Environment Canada’s web site at www.ec.gc.ca/CITES.  In addition, you can contact the CITES Management Authority Office at Environment Canada by email at cites@ec.gc.ca or by telephone Toll Free 1-855-869-8670.


Kristopher Dirks

Wildlife Officer | Agent de protection de la faune

Wildlife Enforcement | Application de la loi sur la faune

Prairie and Northern Region | Région des prairies et du nord

Environment Canada | Environnement Canada

#854, 220 – 4th Ave SE | #854, 220 sud-est, 4e Avenue

Calgary (Alberta) T2G 4X3

Telephone | Téléphone: 403 292 8476

Fax | Télécopieur: 403 292 4028


Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada

Website | Site Web www.ec.gc.ca