What Knifemakers need to know about CITES

What knifemakers need to know about CITES

When you working with a piece of exotic hardwood or the fancy skin, horn, or bone, the nice piece of shell for inlay…… Do you ever give it a thought? Does it come from an endangered species?

Sending knives around the world with protected wood, ivory, and other animal-derived products has always been problematic and remains so. As such it pays to be fully informed on what you can and cannot import or export. It is best to consult the relevant bodies if unsure.

The below information has been compiled to inform and help fellow knifemakers be aware of the status of the materials they use, may use in the future, and what implications can result if proper procedures aren’t followed.

A big thank you goes to Etienne Du Plooy from Prosono for providing information for this article. Etienne works closely with both CITES and South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for nature conservation and permits.

What is CITES?

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Timber Species (CITES) Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species. Over 38,700 species – including roughly 5,950 species of animals and 32,800 species of plants – are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade.

CITES states that their main goal is to optimize the documentation of legal trading routes and to make the reforestation of the current population of threatened plants more sustainable.

Species are listed in the three CITES Appendices. The species are grouped in the Appendices according to how threatened they are by international trade. To find more details of the CITES species, you can search the CITES-listed species database and the Checklist of CITES species.

  • Appendix I species are rare or endangered. Trade-in these species for primarily commercial purposes is
    prohibited. As a result, Appendix I species must be accompanied by a CITES export permit issued by the
    exporting country and a CITES import permit issued by the importing country.
  • Appendix II species are neither rare nor endangered at present but could become so if the trade is not controlled. The species in Appendix II must be accompanied by an appropriate CITES export permit issued by the exporting country before entry to the importing country will be allowed.
  • Appendix III species are not endangered but are subject to special management within the listing country (as indicated in parentheses beside the Appendix number). Species in Appendix III must be accompanied by an appropriate CITES export permit issued by the exporting country if the trade is with the listing country, or by a certificate of origin or a re-export certificate if the trade is with a country other than the listing country, as required by the Convention.

Note that a listing generally means that trade of the raw wood, either in log, board, or veneer form, is restricted. On some species, the restriction is even greater and includes even finished products made of or including a protected wood: one of the most common instances of this is with guitars made of Brazilian Rosewood. In these instances, it is illegal to take such items across international borders without a proper export permit.

What is the IUCN?

Founded in 1948, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (or IUCN for short) is both the oldest and largest network dealing with global environmental issues. Perhaps most notably for knifemakers, the IUCN publishes what is known as The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

Species included on the Red List fall into one of three categories:

  • Critically Endangered: Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.
  • Endangered: Not critically endangered, but still facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.
  • Vulnerable: Not endangered, but still facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.
  • Near Threatened: Technically doesn’t meet the Red List criteria of a vulnerable or endangered species, but is close to qualifying and/or may qualify in the near future.
  • Least Concern: Species that aren’t near threatened, and are not dependent on conservation efforts.

It should also be noted that one unintentional shortcoming of the Red List is that it only considers the risk of extinction; broader issues dealing with habitat destruction or deforestation are not considered.

What is SANBI

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) contributes to South Africa’s sustainable development by facilitating access to biodiversity data, generating information and knowledge, building capacity, providing policy advice, showcasing and conserving biodiversity in its national botanical and zoological gardens. Nearly a quarter of the South African flora is considered either threatened with extinction or of conservation concern. SANBI Red List of South African Threatened Species.

In terms of section 15(1) of the National Forests Act, 1998, no person may cut, disturb, damage, or destroy any protected tree; or possess, collect, remove, transport, export, purchase, sell, donate or in any other manner acquire or dispose of any protected tree or any product derived from a protected tree, except under a license or exemption granted by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Contravention of this declaration is regarded as a first category offense that may result in a person who is found guilty of being sentenced to a fine or imprisonment for a period up to three (3) years, or to both a fine and imprisonment.

Why does trade need to be restricted?

The trade of timber is a billion-dollar business. Due to the excessive use of various species, they became endangered, which is exacerbated by illegal trade and smuggling has led to substantial harm to woodland ecosystems.

As a result, it leads to the destruction of forests around the world. The CITES trade regulation is the ideal solution for this problem. This reduces the availability of restricted species, at the same time importers and exporters have to go through formalities with Cites and Customs regulations to make sure they purchased the timber legally. Granted it does little to curb the illegal trade of restricted wood.

There are countless other international or domestic regulations (European Timber Regulation (2010), Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition), bans, and Acts (U.S. Lacey Act (amended, 2008)) around the world that specifically govern the sourcing and trade of timber in order to protect forests or to bolster domestic timber industry.

As such whilst knifemakers should be knowledgeable of CITES before exporting their knives, knowledge of the local restrictions is also advantageous as they can govern inter-provincial movement and or possession of a particular species.

Popular Hard Woods

Below is a list of popular hardwoods used by South African knifemakers. If a specific wood this not listed below, it does not mean it is not protected nor subject to certain controls, it just hasn’t been included and you should check with CITES and or local departments, as to its status.

If you believe it should be added, comment below or send me a message and I’ll add it.

Wood / SpeciesStatusRequirements
African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon)In 2017, all Dalbergia, including the Dalbergia melanoxylon, was added to the CITES Appendix 2. Dalbergia melanoxylon is listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd.Must be accompanied by an appropriate CITES export permit issued by the exporting country before entry to the importing country will be allowed.
Red or Pink Ivory (Berchemia zeyheri)Berchemia zeyheri is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. As of March 2021 [9]It is a protected species in South Africa and maybe harvested only with an appropriate permit.
Jackalberry (Diospyros Mespiliformis)Diospyros mespiliformis is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. As of March 2021 [9]It is a protected species in South Africa and maybe harvested only with an appropriate permit.
Leadwood (Combretum imberbe)Not currently listed in the CITES Appendices nor on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.It is a protected species in South Africa and maybe harvested only with an appropriate permit.
Mopane (Colophospermum mopane)Colophospermum mopane is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. Mopane is currently not listed as an *endangered species on any CITES Appendix.
False Mopane (Guibourtia coleosperma)Guibourtia coleosperma is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. False Mopane is also mistakenly being referred to as African Rosewood (Kosso, Bubinga).
Bubinga; African Rosewood (Guibourtia tessmannii, G. pellegriniana and Guibourtia demeusei) Guibourtia tessmannii, G. pellegriniana and Guibourtia demeusei are listed in CITES Appendix II and listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered under criteria A4d.Must be accompanied by an appropriate CITES export permit issued by the exporting country before entry to the importing country will be allowed.
Black Chacate (Guibourtia conjugata)Also known as Chacate Preto or small false mopane, it is one of nine precious hardwoods of Mozambique. Guibourtia conjugata is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
Tambotie (Spirostachys africana)Also called African Cocobolo or African Sandalwood, is one of the nine precious hardwoods of Mozambique. Tamboti Spirostachys africana is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
African olivewood (Olea europaea subsp. africana)Also known as olienhout wood or wild olive wood. Olea europaea subsp. africana is listed on the SANBI Red List as Least Concern.
Snake Bean (Bobgunnia madagascariensis or Swartzia madagascariensis)Also known Pau Ferro, Bobgunnia madagascariensis is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
Camel Thorn (Vachellia erioloba, Acacia erioloba)Known locally as kameeldoring, Vachellia erioloba is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.It is a protected species in South Africa and maybe harvested only with an appropriate permit.
Matumi (Breonadia salicina)Breonadia salicina (Mingerhout) is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.It is a protected species in South Africa and maybe harvested only with an appropriate permit.
Red Bushwillow (Combretum apiculatum)Combretum apiculatum is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
Wenge / Panga Panga (Millettia laurentii)Millettia laurentii is listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered under criteria A1cd.
Sneezewood (Ptaeroxylon obliquum)Ptaeroxylon obliquum is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
Knysna / Australian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon)Australian Blackwood compares very closely with Hawaian Koa (Acacia koa). This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices nor on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Cape / Black Ironwood (Olea capensis)Olea capensis is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
Kiaat (Pterocarpus angolensis)Pterocarpus angolensis is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. Decreasing population trends may change the status in the future.
Umzimbeet (Millettia grandis)Millettia grandis is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
Black Stinkwood (Ocotea bullata)Classified as a “Protected Tree” in South Africa and is listed as Endangered (A2bd) in the South African Red List.It is a protected species in South Africa and maybe harvested only with an appropriate permit.
Hard Pear (Olinia ventosa)Olinia ventosa is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
African Padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii)Not currently listed in the CITES Appendices nor on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Cape Beech (Eng.); Boekenhout (Rapanea melanophloeos (L.) Mez)Not currently listed in the CITES Appendices nor on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Afrormosia (Pericopsis Elata)Pericopsis elata is listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered under criteria A2cd. Pericopsis elata was added to the CITES Appendix 2 as of 1992.Must be accompanied by an appropriate CITES export permit issued by the exporting country before entry to the importing country will be allowed.
Rhodesian Teak (Baikiaea plurijuga)Baikiaea plurijuga is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
Ebony (Diospyros crassiflora, Diospyros tessellaria, Diospyros mcphersonii)Diospyros tessellaria is listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable under criteria B1+2cde.
Diospyros crassiflora is listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable under criteria A4c and was added to the CITES Appendix 2 as of 2013.
Must be accompanied by an appropriate CITES export permit issued by the exporting country before entry to the importing country will be allowed.
Ebony, Macassar (Diospyros celebica)Diospyros celebica is listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable under criteria A1cd.
African Mahogany Khaya spp. (Khaya anthotheca, K. grandifoliola, K. ivorensis, K. senegalensis)Khaya grandifoliola, Khaya anthotheca, Khaya senegalensis and Khaya ivorensis are all listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable under criteria A1cd.
Purple Heart (Peltogyne spp.)Not listed in the CITES Appendices nor on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Bocote (Cordia elaeagnoides, Cordia gerascanthus)Not currently listed in the CITES Appendices nor on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. That said, given the recent poaching epidemic taking place in Mexico over the last several years, this status — as well as other Mexican woods, such as Ziricote, Camatillo and Katalox — could be changing in the very near future.
Birdseye Maple (Acer saccharum)Not listed in the CITES Appendices nor on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Ziricote (Cordia dodecandra)Ziricote is a close relative (and neighbor) of Bocote, with both being Central American woods of the Cordia genus. Not currently listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Desert Ironwood (Olneya tesota)Olneya tesota is listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened under criteria A2d.Desert Ironwood (known as Palo Fierro in Spanish) is considered a protected species in Mexico.
Karelian Birch (Betula pendula var. Carelica)The Finnish government requires loggers and lumber producers to follow exacting guidelines and abide by quotas that are strictly enforced. Betula pendula var. Carelica is listed on the IUCN Red List as least Concern.
Gidgee (Acacia cambagei)Acacia cambagei is listed on the IUCN Red List as least Concern.

There are many other hardwoods being sold under various names depending on dialect, in both local and international markets. As a knifemaker, it’s tempting to use any beautiful wood to accent a knife, but it’s always worthwhile to do your homework on it at the same time.

Timber Suppliers:

Your choice of supplier can play a big role in your success as a knifemaker. Not only do they supply you with beautiful wood & materials, but as per the above (required documents, traceable sources, etc), provide you with the ability to sell and market your knives internationally.

If you are selling knives in local markets, then most of the legal requirements have been completed by the timber merchants themselves. However, if you are buying from an independent seller, you may want to double-check that they aren’t selling illegally harvested protected species and have the necessary government permits.

Recommended Timber Merchants

Wood Substitutes:

Protected Animal Materials

Animal-derived materials (is any material derived from the body of an animal)have been used by mankind for centuries, for tools, ornaments however with increasing human pressure (habitat loss, hunting, civil unrest), many animals are under severe pressure to simply survive within their remaining natural habitats.

Popular animal-derived materials used by knifemakers;

  • Bone and other skeletal materials
  • Horn / Antler
  • Teeth / Tusk
  • Skin
  • Fossil (typically Mammoth)

The word “ivory was traditionally applied only to the tusks of elephants. However, the chemical structure of the teeth and tusks of mammals is the same regardless of the species of origin, and the trade-in of certain teeth and tusks other than elephants are well established and widespread. Therefore, “ivory” can correctly be used to describe any mammalian tooth or tusk of commercial interest which is large enough to be carved or scrimshawed.

As of December 2021 the European Union has updated it’s stance to take further action against elephant poaching and ivory trafficking globally which effectively bans most forms of EU trade.

Animal / SpeciesStatusRequirements
Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)Giraffa camelopardalis was added to CITES Appendix 2 as of 2019. Giraffa camelopardalis is listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable under criteria A2acd.Must be accompanied by an appropriate CITES export permit issued by the exporting country before entry to the importing country will be allowed.
African Savanna Elephant (Loxodonta africana)Loxodonta africana is listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered under criteria A2abd. Loxodonta africana was added to CITES Appendix II (South Africa); all other populations are included in Appendix IAppendix I species must be accompanied by a CITES export permit issued by the
exporting country and a CITES import permit issued by the importing country.
Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)Hippopotamus amphibius is listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable under criteria A4acd and was added to CITES Appendix 2 as of 1995.Must be accompanied by an appropriate CITES export permit issued by the exporting country before entry to the importing country will be allowed. Whilst not protected under CITES Appendix I, ivory of all kinds is still prohibited via various international acts.
Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus)Phacochoerus africanus is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.Whilst not protected under CITES, ivory of all kinds is still prohibited via various international acts.
Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus)Physeter macrocephalus is listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable under criteria A1d and was added to Appendix 1 of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).No issuance of CITES import or export permits, or certificates for introduction from the sea for primarily commercial purposes for any specimen of a species or stock protected from commercial whaling by the IWC.
Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)Orcinus orca is listed in Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).No issuance of CITES import or export permits, or certificates for introduction from the sea for primarily commercial purposes for any specimen of a species or stock protected from commercial whaling by the IWC.
Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus)Odobenus rosmarus is listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable under criteria A3c. and was added to CITES Appendix III as of 1975.Must be accompanied by an appropriate CITES export permit issued by the exporting country if the trade is with the listing country, or by a certificate of origin or a re-export certificate if the trade is with a country other than the listing country, as required by the Convention.
Narwhal (Monodon monoceros)Monodon monoceros is listed on the IUCN Red List as Near threatened but Included in CITES Appendix II as of 2003 and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) since 1991.No issuance of CITES import or export permits, or certificates for introduction from the sea for primarily commercial purposes for any specimen of a species or stock protected from commercial whaling by the IWC.
Mammoth (Mammuthus spp.)The UN International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is considering an Appendix II level of protection for the prehistoric mammoth which would subject the mammoth ivory trade to strict regulation in an attempt to save the African elephant from the global ivory trade. [11]https://cites.org/eng/node/55840

Alternative Materials

Wood and Ivory certainly have their own intrinsic beauty that is hard if not impossible to replicate through man-made materials.

A more practical solution is to simply switch to alternative materials that are similar to and sustainably sourced/manufactured. In response to various bans, conservation efforts, some alternative products have been developed to offer similar properties, looks, and functions as the genuine article.

Ivory Alternatives:

  • Alternative Ivory, Faux Ivory (Usually micarta, Resin, etc)
  • Elforyn Juma
  • Vegetable Ivory / Jarina (Tagua – Phytelephas macrocarpa)
  • Vegetable Ivory / Makalani Palm (Hyphaene petersiana)

Exporting and Importing CITES-Listed Items

South Africa is a signatory to CITES and, as such, the import into, and export and re-export out of, South Africa’s international borders of any CITES-listed specimens (living or dead) requires the prior issuance of a CITES permit or certificate in terms of the provisions of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 2004, Act 10 of 2004 – Threatened or Protected Species Regulations, 2007.

Should CITES-listed wildlife or material be imported/exported, without ALL the necessary permits, those goods are subject to seizure, forfeiture and the importers/exporters are liable to prosecution. I have heard that even if the materials are compliant but any of the supporting documents are missing, you can still lose the entire shipment regardless of the ability to provide the missing documents after the fact.

Unless you have the correct CITES documentation, you should not:

  • ship or travel with specimens
  • make payments for their purchase
  • enter into contracts over specimens

The CITES Permit Application costs R400 per application and the goods need to be inspected by the CITES officer in person. Proof of origin (receipt/invoice, previous import permit, affidavit) and previous export/import permits may also need to be included with the application. (chat to your material supplier if needed)

For more detailed information and specific information in your country, please visit the relevant website of the management authority for your jurisdiction. Here is a full list of all the national CITES Management Authorities: https://cites.org/eng/cms/index.php/component/cp

A PDF of the local South African Issuing Authorities (by province) is available [here for download] updated July 2015.

Second Hand Knife Market

The second-hand knife market is quite established in various parts of the world and potentially overlooked by most knifemakers, yet even it is subject to restrictions where CITES is concerned. Many makers will know of or have experience dealing with pre-ban ivory and the lack of documentation surrounding these items, making them virtually impossible to sell/move internationally or even between states.

As long as a restricted material is a part of the knife, it’s essential to have the export/import documentation accompanying the knife for all future trades/sales (cross border) even after the initial import. While not impossible to track down the old documents again, it’s easier to simply keep them with the original box.

All “local” sales should be fine but if a knife features a protected material, it’s good practice to keep all documentation with the knife for future owners. CITES rules are harmonized within all of the European Union so once an item has been legally imported, owners do not need any original or copy of CITES permits when moving around the EU.

The Role of Knifemakers

It’s safe to say that we can all recognise the impact of human activities has on natural resources. This is usually the point where most will become quite preachy and say that knifemakers should be champions of the environment above all else. However, it’s easy to comply with CITES regulations and still make and sell knives.

Knifemakers who take orders from international clients (need to export/send knives outside of South Africa) are potentially more susceptible to encountering CITES-protected materials, however, being informed and having an honest discussion with the client about the regulations surrounding certain materials is always a good starting point. Once the client has been made aware of the regulations, they will most likely want to avoid future hassles as well and will be open to switching to a different or alternative material that is not so much hassle.

This all seems a bit of a rigmarole but let’s remember that the overriding aim of the Convention is the precautionary principle whereby trade in specimens of a species may only take place when the latter has proved to be “harmless” to preserve the species.

We will continue to monitor information from the various CITES Management Authorities and trade channels and report any developments.

Disclaimer

The following is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. KZNknifemakers cannot provide legal advice. You should consult an attorney for legal advice. KZNknifemakers does not claim or warrant that the information provided above is complete.

Resources:

Shopping basket

0
image/svg+xml

No products in the cart.

Continue Shopping