- A recent study reveals concerning gaps in trade protections for the most at-risk animal and plant species.
- To identify potential gaps, researchers compared species on the IUCN Red List with those covered by the CITES, the global wildlife trade convention.
- Two-fifths of the species considered at risk due to international wildlife trade, 904 species, aren’t covered by CITES, the study found.
- The researchers suggest steps that the CITES committees can take to incorporate these findings, including both strengthening protections for overlooked species and relaxing trade controls for species that have shown improvement in their conservation status.
Used as food, pets, medicine and décor, plants and animals across the globe are threatened by international trade. A recent study reveals concerning gaps in trade protections for the most at-risk animal and plant species.
More than 900 species don’t have international trade protections, according to the study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution by a team of ecologists and wildlife trade experts from the University of Oxford, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the U.N. Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
To identify potential gaps in the protection of global biodiversity related to international trade, the researchers compared the species on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with those covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The IUCN determines each species’ conservation status, while CITES regulates species trade. Yet there appears to be a significant disconnect between the two, with the study finding that two-fifths of the species considered at risk due to international wildlife trade are not covered by CITES.
“Our work identifies hundreds of species — including 370 critically endangered and endangered species — in need of protections, and we also know data gaps mean the true figure could be much higher,” said study co-author Kelly Malsch, head of nature conserved at UNEP-WCMC.
Numerous species of fish, flowering plants, birds, reptiles and amphibians are all in need of trade protections. Specifically, there are 31 species of sharks and rays traded for their meat and fins, as well as 23 species of palm heavily traded for horticulture.
The endangered Owston’s civet (Chrotogale owstoni), hunted for wild meat and traditional medicine, and the endangered greater green leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati), captured for the songbird trade, are also on the list.
The researchers say their method of overlaying data from the IUCN and CITES lists is valuable for estimating threats to species from international trade and finding potential gaps in CITES trade measures. They urge governments that have signed up to CITES to use these findings and methodology to identify species that warrant consideration for future listing.
“Cross-referencing data from the Red List with CITES listing information brings these potential protection gaps to light, and I hope that Parties to the Convention will use our methodology to inform their decisions in the run-up to and during the next CITES CoP, currently scheduled to take place in 2025,” study lead author Dan Challender, a research fellow at the University of Oxford, said in a statement.
They also suggest steps that the CITES committees can take to incorporate these research findings, including both strengthening protections for overlooked species and relaxing trade controls for species that have shown improvement in their conservation status.
“CITES listings should respond to the best available information on a species’ status and be adopted where they will be likely to benefit the species,” Challender said. “While our research shows CITES performs moderately well at identifying species in need of trade regulation, it also suggests that hundreds of species are overlooked.”
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Challender, D. W., Cremona, P. J., Malsch, K., Robinson, J. E., Pavitt, A. T., Scott, J., … Hoffmann, M. (2023). Identifying species likely threatened by international trade on the IUCN Red List can inform CITES trade measures. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1-10. doi:10.1038/s41559-023-02115-8
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