Global warming, deforestation, logging, pollution, climate change, the list goes on—all external factors in the endangerment of wildlife. Now in 2023, more than 900 species worldwide are under severe risk without any legal protection. A recent study has revealed concerning gaps in trade protections for global at-risk animal and plant species. An alarming two-fifths of the at-risk species, 904 to be exact, are not protected by CITES, the global wildlife trade convention.

The research team, made 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), worked collectively on identifying the protection gaps. To identify said gaps across global biodiversity, they compared the species from the UCN Red List of Threatened Species to those from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list. There appeared to be a distinct disconnect between the two lists—the IUCN decides each species conservation status, while the CITES regulates species trade.

“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,” stated study lead author, Dan Challender.

A plethora of flowering plants, reptiles, birds, fish, and amphibians are in need of trade protection, specifically 31 species of sharks and rays, as well as 23 species of palm. Both illegally poached and traded for their meat and horticulture resources. The study is also beneficial in identifying potential international threats and imbalances in trade measures. The researchers urge these international governments to use the CITES findings to their advantage and find species that require future consideration. They also suggest that the CITES committee incorporate the findings to include the strengthening protection for overlooked species and the efforts to relax trade control regulations on species that have shown visibly improved 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. 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," added Challender.