These 7 Obscure Animals May Get More Protection From Humans

The future of these little-known species may depend on decisions made in South Africa in a couple of weeks.

Ever heard of a Barbary macaque or turquoise dwarf gecko? How about a silky shark or Banggai cardinalfish? You might not recognize these names, but all of their numbers are dwindling at least in part because of the wildlife trade.

When it comes to trade of animals across borders, it’s usually elephants and rhinos that get the spotlight. It’s no secret that they’re in trouble. Some 27,000 elephants are slaughtered for their tusks every year, and more than a thousand rhinos were killed for their horns last year. Most horns and tusks end up in Asia where they’re viewed as status symbols and carved into objects.

But it’s not only iconic species that get sold from country to country.

Thousands of species are taken from the wild or killed so they can be bought and used as pets, food, jewelry, or traditional medicine. To give a sense of the scale, estimates put the value of the wildlife trafficking network at tens of billions of dollars—up there with other major black markets such as drugs and human trafficking.

On September 24 representatives from 183 governments will meet in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the 17th triennial meeting of the Convention on International Trade of Wild Fauna and Flora, the treaty that regulates the wildlife trade. There, parties will vote on whether to restrict trade in certain animals and plants and whether to loosen rules for others. Among them are the keystone species such as elephants and rhinos, as well as plenty of animals most people have never heard of.

My colleague Rachael Bale and I will report from the meeting, which runs until October 5, and publish the latest developments here at Wildlife Watch. If you’re looking for the nitty-gritty details, we’ll also be posting daily dispatches over at Voices for Wildlife, a blog run by National Geographic’s nonprofit arm.

In the meantime, check out the gallery above, which highlights seven little-known—but very cool—species that could receive more protections.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to