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Lucrative, Rare Species Need Trade Protections - WWF

Date: 10-Sep-04
Country: SWITZERLAND
Author: Thomas Atkins

The Swiss-based body urged governments at a global conference next month to agree to restrict trade in obscure species, which have a high market value as culinary delicacies, aphrodisiacs or pets.

"WWF is asking for lesser-known wildlife ... to be regulated to ensure it does not join the ranks of the magnificent tiger and Asian elephant, both on the verge of extinction," the body, the World Wide Fund for Nature, said in a statement.

The WWF's call for tougher rules comes one month before the United Nations CITES agency meets in Bangkok to approve limits in trade in such well-known species as the great white shark and the Asian elephant.

CITES - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species - already has a virtual ban on trade in tigers, tiger skins and tiger parts, although the animals are still killed and sold illegally.

But the WWF said such unlikely candidates as the humphead wrasse - a bulbous-headed reef fish displayed live in tanks for diners in East Asia - and the giant freshwater pig-nosed turtle, popular with pet-owners, also faced extinction.

Others included Asia's irrawaddy dolphins, who get tangled in nets or killed by dynamite fishing, the tropical ramin tree, used in picture frames and pool cues, the Indonesian yellow-crested cockatoo and the Madagascar leaf-tailed gecko.

CITES has 166 member countries and has proposed major changes to a treaty that covers some 30,000 plants and animals.

As the only global treaty regulating trade in threatened and endangered animals and plants, the body manages what is considered the world's most important wildlife agreement.

It is best known for reducing poaching of African elephants by banning ivory sales in 1989.

The October conference is expected to mark a shift in the decades-old accord toward protecting commercially valuable species - plants and animals that fetch a hefty price on the black market - in addition to "charismatic megafauna" like snow tigers, elephants and great apes.

One of the most important items on the CITES agenda is a Chinese-American proposal to control trade in the Asian yew tree, whose leaves are used to make paclitaxel, a key ingredient for some of the world's best-selling cancer drugs.

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Reuters
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