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International protection lags scientific assessment in species threatened by trade

February 14, 2019

Species that are threatened by wildlife trade take nearly 10 years to receive international protection once identified by the scientific community, according to Eyal Frank and David Wilcove in this Policy Forum. What's more, one-third of species currently at risk of extinction due to international trade are not protected. According to Frank and Wilcove, alleviating the lag between scientific assessment and provision of international protection for these troubled species is crucial to avoiding needless extinction of exploited wildlife. The international wildlife trade threatens thousands of species worldwide and compounds biodiversity loss from other types of human activity, including habitat loss and climate change. To address this growing concern, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty was established, to ban the trade of threatened species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) "Red List," compiles a comprehensive list of species threatened by human activities, including wildlife trade, and is widely accepted to be the global authority on species' extinction risk. Eyal and Wilcove used this list to evaluate how quickly species were protected under CITES after being identified as threatened by international trade. According to the authors, international protection from CITES lags when a species is identified as being at risk. Eyal and Wilcove provide some suggestions on how to address this gap in protection. For example, countries can develop their own strategies to protect Red List species independent of CITES. Moreover, the authors suggest that collaborations between the two organizations must be implemented to ensure that unprotected species identified by the IUCN receive prompt attention by CITES.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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