China

Outdated listing puts species at risk

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Loopholes could allow illegal wildlife traders and hunters in China to evade prosecution or to receive reduced sentencing. The problem stems from China's Protected Species List (PSL): this has not been updated since it was implemented in 1989, resulting in incongruity with newer taxonomy.

Appendices I and II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) use taxonomic classifications based on recent revisions to geographical distributions and phylogenetic relationships. Some species that were formerly listed as exotic to China under CITES have had their listing changed to native. But because the PSL has not been revised accordingly, the endemic status of such species is not recognized in law.

For example, the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is on the PSL as a native species. The endangered Malayan and Indian pangolins (Manis javanica and Manis crassicaudata) receive protection as exotic animals under CITES II, but have been endemic to the country since at least 2000. In our view, these species should be added to the PSL immediately to ensure that they have the same protected status as the Chinese pangolin in national legislation. The taxonomic status of leaf monkeys (Trachypithecus spp.) and the Burmese python (Python bivittatus) have also become inconsistent with the PSL, leading to similar risks for these species.

As a result, illegal traders can claim that these animals with biogeographical or name revisions are not on the PSL, even though they may be endangered. To alleviate trans-border inconsistencies and aid enforcement, this naming inconsistency issue requires that all 181 signatory nations to CITES adopt unambiguous standardized and internationally coherent naming policies, following the IUCN Red List and CITES Species+ (www.speciesplus.net).

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Correspondence to Zhao-Min Zhou.

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Zhou, Z. Outdated listing puts species at risk. Nature 525, 187 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/525187a

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