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Copyright and Photocopying: © 2016 The Authors. Conservation Letters published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Due to revised phylogenies and newly discovered biogeographic distributions, scientific binomials are being amended continuously. Problematic is that wildlife protection legislation tends not to keep pace with these reappraisals, creating a wide range of legislative loopholes and potentially compromising ability to prosecute illegal wildlife trade (IWT). This serious and growing international problem proves particularly challenging in China because binomials used on China's national legislation have not been updated since 1989, alongside the enormous issues of IWT in this megadiverse nation. Here, we focus especially on mammals, because these support lucrative criminal markets and receive the greatest international policing efforts; however, all protected taxa are vulnerable to this misnaming ambiguity. To date, the names of 25 threatened species, including 18 mammals, have become incongruent with Chinese law. Additionally, two primate species, newly discovered within China, have not yet been incorporated into Chinese law. A further six mammalian species are known by different synonyms between Chinese law and CITES, hindering international policing and compilation of data on IWT. Taxonomic revisions similarly undermine legislation in other megadiverse countries; posing a critical risk to wildlife protection worldwide. We recommend that scientific binomials must be updated systematically across all 181 CITES signatory nations.

Original publication




Journal article


Conservation Letters

Publication Date





313 - 315