Nations Too Slow to Protect Endangered Species

(CN) – The tortoise-like pace of global policymakers to act on scientific findings may result in the extinction of hundreds of animal species, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Science.

In this undated photo released by the Wildlife Conservation Society, an endangered Asian giant softshell turtle is seen near a nest of eggs on a sandbar in the Mekong river between Kratie and Stung Treng, northeastern Cambodia. (Wildlife Conservation Society via AP)

The majority of at-risk species wait more than 20 years to gain the necessary international regulatory protections to keep them thriving, say study co-authors Eyal Frank of the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and David Wilcove of the Environmental Institute and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Frank and Wilcove analyzed 958 species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List that are endangered by international trade. Of those, they discovered 28 percent are not protected by the primary international framework for preventing species extinction due to international wildlife trade – the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, often referred to as CITES.

They found that 62 percent of species on the Red List waited as long as 19 years for protection, with some waiting as long as 24 years after being first considered by CITES. Even the most threatened species wait that amount of time.

The study also notes 36 percent of species studied were protected by CITES before making it on the Red List. This indicates the possibility that CITES authorities had information not available to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or there are staffing and other resource constraints on that organization.

“CITES and the Red List are two of the most important tools we have to save wildlife threatened by international trade. It’s vital that these two institutions work together closely and quickly to stop the killing,” Wilcove said.

Frank and Wilcove recommend nations take measures to speed up the process by advocating that Red List species threatened by international trade be quickly protected under the treaty in order to clear the backlog. They say the goal should be a prompt vote for immediate protection under CITES for any threatened species on the Red List that is threatened by trade.

Even though international wildlife authorities with the Conference of the Parties won’t meet to vote till May they can act on wildlife trade restrictions independently from CITES. Frank and Wilcove urge all countries to use the Red List as a source of information and take measures to protect threatened species found within their borders.

“New trends in wildlife trade can develop quickly, with some species going from common to near extinction in just a few years,” Frank said. “A policymaking process needs to respond quickly to new information in order to prevent extinction for hundreds of animals and plants. That’s why it’s absolutely critical that policymakers allow science to inform a speedy protection process.”

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