About Species ID Tool

The SANBI Species Identification Tool is a practical, easy-to-use identification guide that works as an elimination key. It was created to assist customs officials, law enforcement officers, border police and Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI’s) with the identification of South African TOPS and CITES-listed species, thereby enabling better regulation and monitoring of the local and international trade in these threatened and endangered species

This free mobile app is designed to lead you through a series of interactive steps, using photographs and easily observable features, to assist you with quick identification. The tool also includes fact sheets containing important information such as conservation status, identifying features, geographic location as well as similar-looking species.

The SANBI Species ID Tool currently consists of 140 CITES-listed South African plant and animal species, their look-alike species as well as traded parts and derivatives. The next phase of this project will see another 300 + species, including amphibians, birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals and reptiles, added to the Species ID Tool.

The SANBI Identification Tool roject has also developed ‘The SANBI Cycad Identification Tool’ which has been designed to assist with the identification of South African Encephalartos Species.

The project is a collaboration between the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and TRAFFIC, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, a strategic alliance of WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature and IUCN-The World Conservation Union.  The project was sponsored by NORAD, SANBI and the Mazda Wildlife Fund.


The SANBI Species Identification Tool and The SANBI Cycad Identification Tool were conceptualized by The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and TRAFFIC.

Thank you to the following organisations and individuals for their assistance and materials: The Transvaal Museum; The US Fish and Wildlife Service; Environment Canada; The FAO; The Iziko South African Museum, The Mazda Wildlife Fund; The Endangered Wildlife Trust; IFAW; Hugh Glen and De Wet Bosenberg from SANBI; Jacques du Toit from the Department of Environmental Affairs (South Africa); Chris Shepherd and Markus Burgener from TRAFFIC; Andrew Jenkins; W.A. Horsfield; Graham Alexander; Nicola Okes; Johan Marais; Judd Kirkel and Mark Hyde.

Other individuals we would like to acknowledge and thank for their contributions include: Brenda Daly and Rukaya Johaadien  from SANBI and Matt Taylor and Damian Barnier from Identic,  for their technological know-how and help evolving this ID Tool.

Special thanks go to Michele Pfab for her enthusiasm and long-term support of the SANBI Species and Cycad ID Tool Project.