European Council regulation 338/97 introduced controls on the trade in endangered species within the European Union. In the UK, the police have been given statutory powers to enforce these controls by the COTES (Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997), as amended. These regulations apply in addition to the laws under the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to which the UK (along with another 148 countries) is a signatory.
The illegal trade in endangered species is a huge worldwide business making profits for the poachers, traffickers and traders alike. Most of the world’s endangered species that are threatened by trade are killed to be made into products, which are then sold illegally.
Endangered species products come in many different forms, from traditional Chinese medicines, some of which are made from tigers, rhinos, bears and many other less well known, but equally endangered species of animals and plants, to ornamental and decorative items such as animal skins, taxidermy, ivory, tortoiseshell (made from sea turtle shells) and fashion items such as shahtoosh shawls, made from the wool of the endangered Tibetan antelope.
COTES makes it an offence to sell, keep for sale, offer for sale, transport for sale, use for a commercial purpose, or purchase anything which claims to be made from a species in Annex A of the EC Council Regulation. If you suspect that you are buying a product which contains endangered animal products you can check the species at a useful database https://www.speciesplus.net/#/ which provides information in respect of both COTES and CITES.
The COTES regulations give the police the power to take action against the illegal trade in the UK and, therefore, contribute to international efforts to stop the illegal trade.
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