Valuation methodology overview

Data collection: Animals

Financial values for animal products were obtained using species-specific values in United States dollars (USD) that are included as “Declared U.S. Dollar Values” in the United States annual report to CITES (as transmitted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service). Both import and export data for cleared items (Status = “CL”) in annual reports from 2006 to 2014 were used to compile price data for the analysis, and prices were corrected for inflation to express values as estimates of U.S. dollars in 2014. The “Declared U.S. Dollar Value” is the amount in United States dollars declared by the trader at the point of export from or import to the United States.

The price dataset initially included 1 048 263 relevant price records for animal commodities. Median price values were calculated for 4956 taxa/term/unit/source combinations at the species level, 2629 at the genus level and 1647 at the family level. The final EU importer data used included 77 851 trade records, with 310 records with no price data available. The final EU (re-) exporter data used included 186 530 trade records for animals, with an additional 658 records with no prices. Records of animal commodities with no prices were mainly birds traded as medicine, fish traded as extract, and mammals, mainly ivory carvings.

Data collection: Plants


The United States annual reports do not report prices for most plant imports so data for plants were collected from retail and wholesale websites from around the world. Google searches for the names of the main plant groups in trade (e.g. orchids, cacti, succulents, cycads, timber species) plus the phrases ‘for sale’, ‘nursery’, and ‘buy’ were carried out to find plants and plant products for sale. In addition, eBay searches for the main plant groups and genera plus terms were carried out. The process was repeated using the names of some of the key genera, species and trade terms that lacked price data after the first phase. All prices were converted to USD. No adjustments were made for inflation, as all prices were gathered from plants currently advertised for sale.

The price dataset initially included 12 207 relevant price records for plant commodities. Median price values were subsequently calculated for 797 taxa/terms/unit combinations. The final EU importer data used included 16 716 trade records, with 809 records with no price data available. The final EU (re-) exporter data used included 10 352 trade records for plants, with an additional 2023 records with no prices for plants. Plant commodities with no price data were mainly derivatives, medicine and extracts, and for timber species mainly oil and extract.


EU-reported trade data


Trade data were extracted from the CITES Trade Database on 19th April 2016 to determine trade volumes as reported by EU importers and (re-)exporters in 2014. All terms, sources and purposes were included.


Data were standardised to comply with CITES accepted codes[1]. Units and source codes were converted or grouped (in the cases of some sources) to allow for more meaningful analysis. All sources and purposes were included in the analysis. The two datasets were used to calculate the median value for each combination of taxa/term/unit/source for animals, and taxa/term/unit for plants, as the source could not be determined for the majority of retail products. These medians were then multiplied by the reported EU (re)export and import volumes of that combination to obtain total values for CITES-listed EU trade. Only medians for which at least five prices were found were used in the final calculations. In cases where there was an insufficient sample size, a suitable proxy was used. For example, where the sample size at the species level was not large enough, a proxy of the next lowest taxonomic level for which there was a large enough sample size was used (up to order). In cases where no suitable proxy could be found, the data were excluded.

[1] See CITES Notification No. 2011/019.


A number of assumptions were made in order to undertake the calculations for this report:

Records were excluded if no price data were available or if no adequate proxy could be identified. Therefore, calculations are likely to be an underestimate of the total value of EU trade. This exclusion is likely to be biased towards taxa/term/unit/source combinations that are infrequently traded (and therefore do not have prices available online or in US reports).

The use of proxies at the family or order level may underestimate trade values at the species level, especially for particularly high value species. In addition, price for any given species/commodity may vary according to size of the individual or shipment, country of origin, quality, variety (e.g. rare breeds) – such detail is not captured in the CITES trade data. Some values were extremely high, which could represent estimated prices being reported for non-commercial trade (e.g. the estimated value of a live animal imported for a zoo). There may also be incentives for traders to under-value trade on USFWS 3-177 forms in some cases. To account for these differences, a median price was used but it is important to note that there may still be some variation not captured.

Finally, it is important to note that the estimate of the financial value of EU trade in CITES-listed animals is only an approximation of the actual earnings at one stage in the market chain. In addition the use of retail and wholesale prices for plants and import values for animals may mean that they are not comparable, due to the different sources of these data. Overall figures should therefore be interpreted with some caution.