German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Technical guidance for CITES implementation

Identification tool for CITES timber: "CITESwoodID"

The picture shows the cover of the CD CITESwoodID.

The CITES Appendices list a range of tropical tree species whose timber is traded to a greater or lesser extent. Effective and practicable enforcement of CITES for these timber species – which are also traded in Germany – requires an ability to identify them and distinguish them from look-alike timber species.

Most CITES enforcement authorities have little or no knowledge of timber. This combined with a lack of practical identification aids has led to severe enforcement gaps in the timber sector.

To remedy this situation, BfN in its capacity as a CITES Scientific Authority commissioned the Thünen Institute with the development of CITESwoodID, an interactive CD-ROM for the identification of CITES timber species.

The first tool of its kind, CITESwoodID allows timber species in trade and included in the CITES Appendices to be identified by easily recognisable macroscopic characteristics and direct comparison of images. Macroscopic characteristics are features that are visible to the naked eye or with a magnifying glass providing about 10x magnification.

Special care was taken to provide high-quality photographic images. Both the characteristics and the timber species are illustrated in colour. The illustrations supplement the definitions and explanatory notes for use in identification.

In addition to the purely computer based identification of individual timber species, the database also contains descriptions and illustrations of look-alike timbers that can easily be confused with CITES timbers.

Participants of a workshop on identification of CITES traded timber
The picture shows participants of a workshop on identification of CITES traded timber.

In practical enforcement, macroscopic identification using the CD is often the only quick and economic way of telling timber species apart without the help of experts. However, it should be noted that in many cases wood cannot be identified to the species level, as the possibilities of macroscopic wood identification are much more limited than those of microscopic study. More detailed wood identification should be left to microscopic studies carried out by experienced wood anatomists.

The CD is primarily intended for customs and nature conservation authorities, but is also useful for timber industry enterprises and employees, and for consumers and public institutions as well in raising awareness of species conservation issues relating to the timber trade.

Since its development, the software has been adapted several times to the CITES timber listings that have taken place in the meantime. The CD is available in the three CITES languages (English, French and Spanish) as well as in German. CITESwoodID is one of the most innovative and practical identification tools for CITES protected timber species. Since its introduction, it has established itself as an indispensable instrument in the practical implementation of species identification, it is regularly introduced and applied to national and international training and further education measures, and it is presently used in many countries for controlling the import and export of timber species included in the CITES Appendices.

In November 2017, BfN created a revised version of the interactive timber identification software "CITESwoodID", which is now available as CD-ROM. The updated version covers the timber species newly listed in CITES in 2016 including many rosewood species as well as many similar species, which are underlaid with macroscopic descriptions and illustrations. The wood of the newly listed species is primarily, but not exclusively being used for musical instrument making.

For an updated version of the CD please contact: Susanne Kandert