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Bangkok (AFP) March 7, 2013
A ban on the international trade of the Tasmanian tiger, the buff-nosed kangaroo rat and the pig-footed bandicoot was lifted Thursday -- because the species have been extinct for decades.
The 178 member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Bangkok agreed to remove six Australian species from Appendix I, which bans their international trade.
Among them is the Tasmanian tiger, a dog-like marsupial named for its striped back, that was driven to extinction by farmers protecting their sheep.
The last known specimen died in a Hobart zoo in 1936 and the species was declared extinct by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 1982.
However, as a precaution it was included on Appendix I of CITES which came into force in 1975, joining colourfully-named species such as the crescent nailtail wallaby and the lesser rabbit-eared bandicoot.
As for the dusky flying fox, it probably never even existed and only a single apparent specimen was collected in the nineteenth century.
Other extinct species included on CITES protection lists will be reviewed by the end of the conference on March 14, including the Guadalupe Caracara from Mexico and the New Zealand laughing owl.
"It is terribly sad," said Colman O'Criodain of WWF, noting that the Australian extinctions had nothing to do with an international trade.
"It reflects what happened to the Australian ecosystem when Europeans arrived on the continent," he said, referring to the introduction of non-native species such as cats and foxes which slashed the number of some indigenous creatures.
"Australia has an unfortunate history of high levels of extinction particularly of small mammals," said Deb Callister, head of the Australian delegation to CITES.
Two frogs which raised their young in their mouths are also on the list, Callister added, but have not been found in Australia since the 1980s.
"Australia is not proud of our extinction record, it is a legacy issue that we've learned from and we try now to put in place recovery plans and other actions for those species that are threatened."
Among those is the Tasmanian devil, a marsupial threatened by a contagious facial cancer which has decimated 90 percent of the population. The rest may prove impossible to save.
This is one of the first times that CITES has withdrawn extinct species from its list, which comprises some 35,000 protected species.
"There's probably going to be some more," said David Morgan, the convention's chief scientist who has launched a review of its lists.
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