WWF announces “10 most wanted species”

Posted on 09 September 2004

The humphead wrasse and ramin - a tree found in Asia- may not sound like the world's most desirable species, but they are in fact, among the most wanted internationally.
Gland/Switzerland  – The humphead wrasse and ramin - a tree found in Asia- may not sound like the world's most desirable species, but they are in fact, among the most wanted internationally.

According to WWF, the global conservation organization, the Asian fish and timber are so sought-after in some parts of the world that these two species have joined the ranks of wildlife most at risk from unregulated international trade. 
As delegates from 166 countries prepare to head to Bangkok next month for the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), WWF released its biennial list of 10 of the world's most in-demand species bought, sold, smuggled, killed or captured for the global marketplace.    
“Our list this year reflects the varied nature of the modern wildlife trade,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of the WWF  Global Species Programme. “Although trade must be banned for some well-known endangered species, other more obscure species also suffer from unregulated trade. WWF is asking for lesser-known wildlife like the humphead wrasse – a fascinating tropical fish whose lips have spawned a dining trend – to be regulated to ensure it does not join the ranks of the magnificent tiger and Asian elephant, both on the verge of extinction." 
This year’s “10 most wanted species”, based on threats from unsustainable trade and consumer demand, are: 
Humphead Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus):
This bulbous-headed, coral reef fish is caught and displayed live in tanks for diners in East Asian restaurants. Demand has grown steadily for this delicacy which usually costs mores than 100 US dollars a kilo. The fish is being unsustainably harvested, and since it is rare and slow to reproduce, its populations are now suffering greatly.
Ramin (Gonystylus spp.):
This tropical hardwood from Indonesia and Malaysia is used to make mass-produced pool cues, moldings, doors and picture frames. Ramin grows largely in peat swamp forests, which are increasingly targeted by illegal loggers in search of the valuable wood, putting at risk endangered species that live in the forest- including tigers and orang-utans .
Tigers (Panthera tigris):
In the past century, the tiger’s numbers have been reduced by 95 percent – with perhaps fewer than 5,000 tigers left in the wild. Among the biggest threats to the tiger are poaching for the trade in tiger skins, and bone for traditional Chinese medicines, as well as poaching of its prey species.
Great White Sharks (Carcharodon carcharias):
The largest of the predatory sharks, it is poached for its jaws, teeth, and fins, which collect high prices and are in demand worldwide. The great whites are also threatened because of bycatch in fishing gear, with those that survive often being killed for their parts.   
Irrawaddy Dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris):
The biggest threat to this rare Asian dolphin is entanglement in fishing nets and injury from explosives used for dynamite fishing. There is also demand for the dolphin for display in zoos and aquariums, but the species is so endangered that even limited trade is detrimental to its survival.
Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus):
Poaching of elephants for ivory and meat remains a serious problem in many Asian countries, as does habitat loss. Illegal ivory seizures have been on the increase since 1995, led by high demand in China. There are between 35,000 and 50,000 Asian elephants in the wild, with an additional 15,000 in captivity.
Pig-Nosed Turtles (Carettochelys insculpta):
Even with its bizarre, protruding snout, this giant freshwater turtle – found only in Papua New Guinea, Northern Australia, and Indonesia – is a popular pet worldwide and its population is suffering from high demand from the international pet trade. The turtles’ nests are also often robbed of their eggs, which are either eaten or sold.
Yellow-Crested Cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea):
There are fewer than 10,000 of these exotic-looking birds. Highly prized by the international pet trade, Indonesia, where they are found, is proposing an end to all international commercial trade at this CITES meeting.
Leaf-tailed Geckos (Uroplatus spp.):
All 10 species of the leaf-tailed gecko are found in Madagascar. These lizards, with their bark-like appearance, are sold at alarming rates for the international pet trade. They are also threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation.
Asian Yew Trees (Taxus chinensis, T. cuspidata, T. fuana, T. sumatrana):
Yew trees all over Asia are unsustainably harvested for their bark and needles, which contain a chemical used in the cancer medication Taxol. If the harvest continues at its current rate, the species may no longer be available for widespread use as a helpful medicine.   
Several of these species – the tiger and Asian elephant, for example – have remained on WWF's "most wanted" list over the past decade, indicating little progress in stopping illegal trade and other threats to their survival.

Other species, such as ramin and great white shark, have moved onto the list because of a dramatic increase in demand for their products on global markets. As a result, trade in these species needs to be regulated and well-managed.
For further information:
Joanna Benn,
WWF International Species Communications Manager,
+41 22 364 9093
Olivier van Bogaert,
WWF International Press Office,
+41 22 364 9554 
1. Considered the world's most important wildlife agreement, CITES is the only global treaty that regulates trade in threatened and endangered animals and plants. It is perhaps best known for helping reduce poaching of African elephants by banning ivory sales in 1989. 
2. These species have been chosen to reflect the diversity and geographical range of wild species affected by uncontrolled or unregulated international trade. WWF has chosen priority species for lobbying and advocacy at this year's CITES CoP in Bangkok. WWF's priorities this year include Humphead wrasse, Ramin, Great White, Irrawaddy dolphin, Saiga antelope, African Elephants and Minke Whales. For  further information, please go to www.panda.org/species/CITES