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WWF's Top Ten List of Traded Species

WASHINGTON– Ahead of the world's major international meeting on wildlife trade, World Wildlife Fund releases its top ten list of species needing global action now to reduce threats from trade.

Some of the species on WWF's top ten for trade protection list are among the most endangered species. For example, tigers and Asian rhinos have required constant protective action over the past decades because pervasive threats to their survival persist, including poaching and illegal trade. Others--including many marine species--are on the list because their populations have declined drastically in recent years to supply global market demands.

From June 3-15, delegates from 171 countries are expected to attend the Conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in The Hague, The Netherlands and make key decisions on protecting endangered wildlife from trade.

"The decisions made at CITES are critically important for species threatened by illegal or unsustainable trade," said Crawford Allan, director, TRAFFIC North America. "The priority species listed here either cannot sustain the current levels of harvest and trade or the illegal trade that continues despite it being banned under CITES. The CITES Conference is an opportunity for the world's governments to do something and the United States has a major role to play in making CITES work."

WWF's top ten "to do" list for the world's governments includes the following species:

Porbeagle – Porbeagle shark is a powerful, medium-sized, highly migratory shark. There is international demand for, and trade in, its high-value meat and fins. It is also used as fertilizer. WWF calls upon governments to include the species in CITES Appendix II.

Spiny dogfish – Spiny dogfish is a slender, small white-spotted shark that grows to about three feet long and travels in schools. It lives in cool, coastal waters worldwide. Known as rock salmon, it is used in fish and chips in the UK and as a smoked meat delicacy in Germany, called Schillerlocken. The United States has Spiny Dogfish fisheries on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. WWF calls upon governments to include the species in CITES Appendix II.

Sawfish – Populations of the seven species of sawfish have drastically declined. They are traded as live animals for public aquariums, and also for their fins and meat. Their distinctive saw-like snouts are sold as souvenirs and ceremonial weapons, while other body parts are used for traditional medicines. The Sawfish is found off the Atlantic coast of the U.S. WWF calls upon governments to include these species in CITES Appendix I.

Tigers – In addition to continuing threats from habitat loss and forest conversion, tigers face the potential re-opening of trade in tiger parts from tiger ‘farms' in China which would put the last remaining wild tigers at risk. WWF calls upon governments to take concerted action to stop all trade in tigers, particularly in China, and to improve enforcement efforts across Asia (e.g., India).

Asian rhinos – Historically hunted for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines, and devastated by the destruction of their lowland forest habitat, Asian rhino populations are now distressingly small. An upsurge in poaching over the last few years is taking its toll even on populations that were thought to be stable. WWF calls upon governments to step up enforcement efforts, and assist countries such as Nepal to stop the poaching.

Red and pink coral – A jewel that comes from reefs and atolls, it is the most valuable of all the precious corals. Pink coral has been fished for over 5,000 years and used for jewelry and decoration. Over-harvesting and the destruction of entire colonies by bottom trawls and dredges have led to dramatic population declines. The U.S. is one of the largest importers of red and pink corals and these species were once harvested in Hawaiian waters. WWF calls on governments to include all species of red and pink coral in CITES Appendix II.

European eel – The European eel comes from coastal and freshwater ecosystems throughout Europe, including Mediterranean countries. Stocks have declined dramatically over the past several decades due to overfishing and poaching. There is significant international demand for this species, both for live juvenile eels (shipped from Europe to Asia) for rearing in aquaculture and for the highly valued meat of adults. WWF calls on governments to include this species in CITES Appendix II.

Elephants – The ongoing poaching of elephants and illegal international trade in ivory is stimulated by rampant ivory sales in some countries, particularly in Africa and Asia. Despite previous CITES decisions, and valiant efforts of some countries, these markets persist. The time has come to put political will behind serious efforts to close down these illegal and unregulated ivory markets, the true driver of elephant poaching.

Great apes – Wild populations of great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans), continue to decline drastically and are threatened by the combined effects of illegal trade in live animals (usually for pets), poaching for meat, disease and habitat disturbance, fragmentation and destruction. WWF calls on governments and CITES to stop this trade – including by adequately enforcing existing laws and imposing stiff penalties to deter would-be traders.

Bigleaf mahogany – This highly valuable South and Central American rainforest tree species was listed in CITES Appendix II in 2002, in response to population declines and high levels of illegal logging and trade. Only one country still exports large commercial quantities, Peru, and after five years, these problems continue, and concerted action is needed. The US is the largest importer of bigleaf mahogany from Peru, and should therefore be proactive in ensuring a legal, sustainable trade.

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Known in the United States as World Wildlife Fund and recognized worldwide by its panda logo, WWF leads international efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats and to conserve the diversity of life on Earth. Now in its fifth decade, WWF, the global conservation organization, works in more than 100 countries around the world. For more information on World Wildlife Fund, visit www.worldwildlife.org

Known in the United States as World Wildlife Fund and recognized worldwide by its panda logo, WWF leads international efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats and to conserve the diversity of life on Earth. Now in its fifth decade, WWF, the global conservation organization, works in more than 100 countries around the world. For more information on World Wildlife Fund, visit www.worldwildlife.org

Editors notes:

For information on all of WWF’s positions go to www.panda.org/species/cites

Species are listed on one of three Appendices according to the level of threat they face:

  • Appendix I bans international commercial trade in species.
  • Appendix II regulates international trade in species that may be threatened without regulation of the level of trade. Commercial trade is allowed on the condition that specimens are legally obtained and that the trade is not detrimental to the wild population.
  • Appendix III lists species that are protected in at least one country, where that country has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the species trade.
  • This is the first time the CITES Conference has been held in the European Union, and will see the largest-ever such gathering devoted to the trade in endangered species.