NAIROBI, Aug 23 (Swara) – A new study has brought to light a significant lapse in international wildlife trade protections. Alarmingly, two-fifths of the species under threat from international trade are without the protective umbrella of the global agreement devised to safeguard them. Of these unprotected species, 370 are listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The comprehensive research was carried out by a team comprising experts from prominent institutions — the University of Oxford, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), and ZSL. The team pointed out glaring gaps in protection efforts at a time when the exploitation of plants and animals has reached alarming heights.
Published in the Nature Ecology and Evolution journal, the study assesses data from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This data was then cross-referenced with the list of species that are under imminent threat. Even though CITES has extended protection to approximately 40,000 species, the absence of a comprehensive and consistent methodology could be leaving a multitude of at-risk species vulnerable.
Dr. Dan Challender, the lead author of the study from the University of Oxford, underscored the potential repercussions of their revelations. “Cross-referencing data from the Red List with CITES listing information exposes these considerable protection gaps,” he said. He voiced his hope that that the insights derived from their methodology will significantly inform the discussions and decisions at the CITES Conference of the Parties slated for 2025.
The list of unprotected species is daunting, encompassing a wide array of species including fish, flowering plants, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The unprotected species also include 31 types of sharks and rays, predominantly traded for their meat and fins, and 23 species of palm, a significant chunk of the horticultural trade.
In addition to identifying the protection gaps, the research team has also crafted their methodology to evolve in tandem with the revisions to the IUCN Red List. This approach offers actionable recommendations for the CITES committees.
An alarming discovery was that of the 1,307 species that, even with the CITES protection in place, continue to be threatened by international trade. This revelation underscores the urgency for a more thorough assessment of these species, evaluating the effectiveness of current protective measures and whether they need to be ramped up.
However, the study is not solely about further restricting trade. Some species, based on improved conservation status, might qualify for more relaxed trade controls, striking a balance between conservation and sustainable trade.
In wrapping up, Kelly Malsch, UNEP-WCMC’s Head of Nature Conserved, emphasized the ramifications of the study’s findings. She said, “For the objectives of both CITES and the new Global Biodiversity Framework to be realized, it’s paramount that international trade in plant and animal species does not endanger their very existence in their natural habitats.”