News Release

More than 900 at-risk animal and plant species not covered by global trade protections, new research shows

Peer-Reviewed Publication


A new study into the safeguarding of wildlife threatened by international trade has revealed:

  • two-fifths of species identified as likely threatened by the international wildlife trade are not covered by the global agreement that regulates it;
  • which means 904 species likely threatened by international trade are without international trade protections;
  • this includes 370 species that are Critically Endangered or Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM

The study was conducted by a team of ecologists and wildlife trade experts at the University of Oxford, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and ZSL.

With the overexploitation of animals and plants being a major threat to nature, and new international pledges to halt species extinctions and ensure the harvest, use and trade in wild species is sustainable as part of the UN-brokered deal for nature – the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework – now in place, the researchers set out to identify potential gaps in international trade protections for the world’s biodiversity.

To do that, their new study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, cross-references wildlife trade information with data on species under threat.

International wildlife trade protections are set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as part of which signatory countries – termed “Parties to the Convention” – periodically decide on trade controls for thousands of animal and plant species. Around 40,000 species are currently included in the CITES Appendices. However, in the absence of a robust, repeatable methodology to inform the listing process, there is the potential that species threatened by international trade could be missing out on much-needed global protections.

The researchers used the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species – the most authoritative global source on at-risk animals and plants – to identify species likely threatened by international trade, and compared these findings with CITES-listed species to identify potential gaps and develop a repeatable methodology. 

Of the 904 species found to be likely threatened by international trade but without corresponding protection, hundreds are fish and flowering plants, with many species of birds, reptiles and amphibians also identified.

The list of 370 Endangered or Critically Endangered animals and plants in need of protection from overexploitation from international trade include 31 species of shark and ray traded for their meat and fins, as well as 23 species of palm heavily traded for horticulture. The list of species also includes the Endangered Owston's Civet – which is snared for wild meat and traditional medicine – and the Endangered Greater Green Leafbird – which is caught for the songbird trade.

The potential for gaps in species protections has been raised during recent CITES meetings, and the researchers are now calling for their findings and methodology to be used to inform Parties about species that may merit consideration for potential listing proposals at future CITES Conference of the Parties (CoPs).

Dr Dan Challender, Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study, said:

“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.

“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.”

The researchers’ methodology has been developed so it can be updated along with ongoing revisions to the IUCN Red List, and the team highlight a range of steps that the CITES committees can take to incorporate the findings.

The team’s analysis also identified 1,307 species that are CITES-listed and likely threatened by international trade, despite this trade being regulated under the Convention. This indicates that these species may require increased scrutiny to determine whether there are sustainability issues that may merit tighter controls through CITES provisions, as well as other measures.     

Importantly, the results are also not limited to identifying species in need of greater trade regulation. Equally, they can inform the relaxation of trade controls for species that have improved in status and can potentially be traded sustainably.

Kelly Malsch, UNEP-WCMC’s Head of Nature Conserved and study co-author, said:

“To achieve the aims of both CITES and the new Global Biodiversity Framework on tackling nature loss, it is vital that the international trade in animal and plant species is both sustainable and does not threaten the survival of the species in the wild.

“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. We hope that CITES Parties will be able to use our new methodology in future to ensure that CITES listings are based on the best available science.”   

To download a full version of the research paper, alongside supplementary information and graphs, please visit: Identifying species likely threatened by international trade on the IUCN Red List can inform CITES trade measures | Nature Ecology & Evolution

For media interviews and further information, please contact;

University of Oxford: / 01865 280528
IUCN: / +44 7960 241862
ZSL: / 07890039163
UNEP-WCMC: / 07787512427

About the University of Oxford
Oxford University has been placed number 1 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the seventh year running, and ​number 2 in the QS World Rankings 2022. At the heart of this success are the twin-pillars of our ground-breaking research and innovation and our distinctive educational offer. Oxford is world-famous for research and teaching excellence and home to some of the most talented people from across the globe. Our work helps the lives of millions, solving real-world problems through a huge network of partnerships and collaborations. The breadth and interdisciplinary nature of our research alongside our personalised approach to teaching sparks imaginative and inventive insights and solutions.

Through its research commercialisation arm, Oxford University Innovation, Oxford is the highest university patent filer in the UK and is ranked first in the UK for university spinouts, having created more than 200 new companies since 1988. Over a third of these companies have been created in the past three years. The university is a catalyst for prosperity in Oxfordshire and the United Kingdom, contributing £15.7 billion to the UK economy in 2018/19, and supports more than 28,000 full time jobs.

The Department of Biology is a University of Oxford department within the Maths, Physical and Life Sciences Division. It utilises academic strength in a broad range of bioscience disciplines to tackle global challenges such as food security, biodiversity loss, climate change and global pandemics. It also helps to train and equip the biologists of the future through holistic undergraduate and graduate courses. For more information visit

About IUCN
IUCN is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organisations. It provides public, private and non-governmental organisations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together.

Created in 1948, IUCN is now the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network, harnessing the knowledge, resources and reach of more than 1,400 Member organisations and some 15,000 experts. It is a leading provider of conservation data, assessments and analysis. Its broad membership enables IUCN to fill the role of incubator and trusted repository of best practices, tools and international standards.

IUCN provides a neutral space in which diverse stakeholders including governments, NGOs, scientists, businesses, local communities, indigenous peoples organisations and others can work together to forge and implement solutions to environmental challenges and achieve sustainable development.

Working with many partners and supporters, IUCN implements a large and diverse portfolio of conservation projects worldwide. Combining the latest science with the traditional knowledge of local communities, these projects work to reverse habitat loss, restore ecosystems and improve people’s well-being.

Founded in 1826, ZSL is an international conservation charity, driven by science, working to restore wildlife in the UK and around the world; by protecting critical species, restoring ecosystems, helping people and wildlife live together and inspiring support for nature. Through our leading conservation zoos, London and Whipsnade, we bring people closer to nature and use our expertise to protect wildlife today, while inspiring a lifelong love of animals in the conservationists of tomorrow. Visit for more information.

The UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is a global centre of excellence on biodiversity and nature’s contribution to society and the economy. It operates as a collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme and UK charity WCMC. 
UNEP-WCMC works at the interface of science, policy and practice to tackle the global crisis facing nature and support the transition to a sustainable future for people and the planet.
For more information, visit

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.