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The Napoleon wrasse, otherwise known as the humphead or Maori wrasse, is being so heavily over-fished for its lips and and eyes - which are eaten as a delicacy - as well as its flesh, that it faces being wiped-out in many areas if the trade is not controlled.

Great whites may be one of the most powerful predators on earth, but a burgeoning trade in teeth, jaws and fins, coupled with increased commercial and sport fishing, has pushed the great white into 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 market place.

Stuart Chapman, Head of WWF-UK's Species Programme said: "Powerful predators like the great white have a certain mystique, and this has created a demand for souvenirs like teeth and jaws, but they are also killed for their fins, which are made into soup. Trade controls are urgently needed to ensure this magnificent animal is not fished out of our seas completely."

Stuart Chapman added: "Trade in more obscure species like the Napoleon wrasse also needs to be regulated, to ensure it does not join the ranks of the tiger and Asian elephant - both of which have been exploited to the verge of extinction."

This year's "10 most wanted species", based on threats from unsustainable trade and consumer demand, are:

  • Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias): The largest of the 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;
  • 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;
  • 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 - 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 great whites and humphead wrasse, have moved onto the list because of a dramatic increase in demand for their products on global markets.

WWF is calling on CITES to take action to save these species by ensuring trade is regulated and well managed.
Great white shark © WWF / Wildlife Pictures/Jêrome Mallefet

Humphead wrasse © WWF-Canon / WWF-Hong Kong/Cindy Cheng

Sumatran tiger © David Lawson/WWF-UK

Irrawaddy dolphin © WWF-Canon/Alain Compost

Image removed.

Image removed.

Further information
For information about WWF-UK's work on threatened wildlife visit the endangered species page of our Research Centre .

For information on other species in this press release, please go to TRAFFIC COP 13 Conference News Room .