The goal of this blog is to spread awareness about the impacts of the illegal wildlife trade on biodiversity and wildlife welfare. The illegal wildlife trade is one of the big threats facing wildlife today. This trade is the second largest in illegal trafficking after narcotics (Westin & Memon, 2009). In this blog, I will be focusing on one of the aspects of this trade, the illegal pet trade. All over the globe, animals ranging from primates to reptiles to birds are captured from the wild and sold domestically and internationally as pets. Endangered species and other species that are popular in media, such as the slow loris, made famous on Youtube, are in high demand around the world (Schlaepfer et al., 2005). Huge numbers are captured from the wild, with the majority dying before reaching their final destination to be sold (Carrete & Tella, 2008). Many conservationists are recognizing this trade as a large and growing threat to wildlife conservation.
The exotic pet trade poses another threat to wildlife, the spread of invasive species. (Carrete & Tella, 2008). Species ranging from Burmese pythons to monk parakeets have been found thriving in habitats far from their own native ranges (Carrete & Tella, 2008). Carrete and Tella (2008) even suggest that the capture of wild animals for the pet trade, given the high mortality rate, selects for the strongest individuals being sold as pets. These strong individuals would then more easily invade new territory if released into the wild.
Besides the possibility of introducing an invading species to a new habitat, the wildlife trade has other negative impacts for both humans and wildlife. Moving animals across borders, especially in the poor conditions these animals are often subjected to, can lead to infectious diseases being carried to uninfected areas (Daught, Brightsmith & Peterson, 2014; Gomez & Aguirre, 2008). Humans are also impacted by this trade, as the money from trafficking these animals sometimes goes to crime syndicates or is used to fund conflicts (Daught, Brightsmith & Peterson, 2014).
Education is one factor that could help immensely in reducing the demand for trafficked pets. Many people are not aware of the harsh realities of the illegal pet trade. Awareness of the dwindling wild populations and the unhealthy conditions their desired pet would have to endure could dissuade some people. Additionally, many people are not prepared to provide adequate care for the animals they acquire, leading to suffering on the part of their pet (Weston & Memon, 2009). A specific example is that of the slow loris. For one of my classes, we saw a presentation about the “loris tickling” videos that were popular on social media, driving demand for lorises. What many people don’t realize is that the loris raising its arms is a maneuver the loris uses when it is stressed and preparing to defend itself. Examples like this are why it is important that word gets out about the negative impacts of the trade on biodiversity and on the individual animals themselves. This is where this blog comes in.
Carrete, M., & Tella, J. (2008). Wild bird trade and exotic invasions: a new link of conservation concern? Fronteirs in Ecology, 6(4), 207-211.
Daut, E. F., Brightsmith, D. J., & Peterson, M. J. (2015). Role of non-governmental organizations in combating illegal wildlife–pet trade in Peru. Journal for Nature Conservation, 24, 72-82. doi:10.1016/j.jnc.2014.10.005
Gómez, A., & Aguirre, A. A. (2008). Infectious Diseases and the Illegal Wildlife Trade. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1149(1), 16-19. doi:10.1196/annals.1428.046
Martin A. Schlaepfer, Craig Hoover, C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr.; Challenges in Evaluating the Impact of the Trade in Amphibians and Reptiles on Wild Populations. BioScience 2005; 55 (3): 256-264.
Shepherd, C. (2010). Illegal primate trade in Indonesia exemplified by surveys carried out over a decade in North Sumatra. Endangered Species Research, 11(3), 201-205. doi:10.3354/esr00276
Weston, M. K., & Memon, M. A. (2009). The illegal parrot trade in Latin America and its consequnces to parrot nutrition, health and conservation. Bird Populations, 9, 76-83.