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Technical guidance for CITES implementation

„CITESwoodID“ App: Identification of CITES-protected timber species

© Thuenen Institute for Wood Research
The image shows the screen of a smartphone using the CITESwoodID app.

The international trade in tropical timber has increased significantly in recent years. In order to regulate this trade, presently, more than 200 tree species are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Also, Germany is an important importing country for tropical timber. To ensure effective and practicable CITES enforcement and also to contain illegal trade in protected tree species, it is necessary to be able to identify the relevant CITES-listed timber species and to distinguish them from look-alike timber species.

In order to provide CITES enforcement authorities such as customs with wood-specific knowledge for the identification of CITES-protected timber species, the software "CITESwoodID" has been developed already in 2005 by the Thuenen Institute of Wood Research on behalf of and according to the specifications of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), which is the German Scientific CITES Authority. CITESwoodID offered for the first time the possibility to identify commercial timber species subject to CITES-protection and to distinguish them from non-protected species.

The content of the software has been regularly updated during the last years through technical and professional adaptations. In 2020, CITESwoodID was further developed by the Thuenen Institute on behalf of BfN, and the user spectrum has been broadened considerably as the software was made available as a mobile application (app). The app is available for download on cell phones, tablets, laptops, as well as desktop PCs under the operating systems iOS, Android and Windows. The app is available in the three CITES languages (English, French and Spanish) as well as in German.

The CITESwoodID database includes the rosewood species of the genus Dalbergia that have been protected by CITES since 2017, as well as other so-called rosewood species of the genera Guibourtia and Pterocarpus. In total, the database contains 46 CITES-protected timbers such as rosewood, mahogany, and ebony as well as 34 commercial timber species which can be confused with CITES-protected species due to their very similar appearance or similar structural wood anatomical features.


© BfN
The image shows the screen of a smartphone using the CITESwoodID app.

The CITESwoodID app is based on a direct image comparison of easily recognizable macroscopic structural features, defined as features visible to the naked eye or a magnifying glass up to 10x magnification. The wood sample to be identified can be compared with the high-resolution photographic images and textual descriptions stored in the CITESwoodID database for each species. The images and descriptions as well as an illustrated glossary can be accessed independently of the identification function.


The users are guided through the timber identification function by an interactive multivariate identification key. The app presents a list of structural wood anatomical features to choose from when comparing the timber sample to the photographic images and the descriptions. On top of the list those features are presented that are on the one hand macroscopically easily recognizable, on the other hand may lead to the exclusion of a high number of species in the first steps of identification. Alternatively, the users can select features from the list which are particularly easy to recognize on the individual sample.    

In practice, the macroscopic identification of wood samples on the basis of CITESwoodID in many cases offers the only feasible possibility to identify or approximate timber species without the consultation of experts. With the help of CITESwoodID the import and export of misdeclared timber can be detected and contained fast and safely. At least, the software can support the decision whether a suspicious case is present and experts should be consulted. Further wood identification is bound to a microscopic examination, which should be carried out by experienced wood anatomists.


© Hofbauer
The image shows participants of a CITESwoodID workshop on timber identification at the Thuenen Institute for Wood Research.

CITESwoodID is primarily aimed at customs and nature conservation authorities but also at companies and employees of the timber industry. Furthermore, it enables interested consumers and citizens as well as public institutions to identify CITES-listed timber species and sensitizes for species conservation aspects in the timber sector.

CITESwoodID is currently one of the most innovative and practicable identification tools for protected tropical timber species. Since its launch, it became an indispensable instrument in the practical implementation of timber species identification. CITESwoodID is regularly presented and applied at national and international education and training measures. The BfN conducts regular training courses together with the Thuenen Institute of Wood Research. Meanwhile, the software is used in many countries to control the import and export of CITES-protected timber species.

At present, CITESwoodID is available for download via the App Stores of iOS and Android. The version for Windows will be released soon.

Here you can find the links to download the iOS and Android versions.

Contact: Susanne Kandert


" Visual identification guide to the monitor lizard species of the world (genus Varanus)"

Worldwide, Germany and other member states of the European Union belong to the major importers of live reptiles, as well as their parts and products. Thousands of monitor lizards and their skins are imported annually by Germany in order to supply the pet trade and the leather industry.

The currently 82 scientifically described Varanus species are sometimes only difficult to identify. Species of striking coloration or small size may be of particular demand in the pet trade. Several new species have been described in recent years, which could be best identified based on genetic analyses. The increasing number of described species pose a great challenge to authorities in proper species identification worldwide, which his however crucial e.g., in the case of confiscations.

Therefore, BfN commissioned the experts Dr. Mark Auliya and Dr. André Koch of the ZFMK to prepare the first visual identification guide to the monitor lizards of the world. This guidance supports the work of national authorities and custom officers. Besides relevant information for species identification, the guidance contains data on the distribution, conservation status and reproduction biology, which is amongst others relevant for making plausibility checks of the captive breeding of specimens in trade. Furthermore, the information can be used by scientists, zoological institutions or interested private people.

Download: Visual Identification Guide to the Monitor Lizard Species of the World (Genus Varanus)

Contact: info@bfn.de

Last Change: 11/11/2020

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