How it is destroying many animal species

The demand for geckos by collectors has led to the extinction of many species, including the Chinese Tiger Gecko Goniurosaurus luii, as well as other geckos that are only known to scientists and collectors. These extinct, endangered, and unclassified species can be purchased from unscrupulous dealers in America and Europe. They are also available via the internet or reptile shows.

Green python. Claro Cortes/Reuters

This is a risk for any newly described reptile, especially those from Asia Ne, New Zealand, or Madagascar.

All animals available for sale are illegal and represent the entire global population of certain species.

An estimated 50% of live reptiles exported are thought to have been caught in the wild, despite the fact that less than half of the 10,272 reptile species currently described had their conservation status evaluated. It isn’t easy to develop appropriate management guidelines, priorities, or quotas when only 8% of the trade is controlled.

This exploitation affects not only reptiles and amphibians but also can be a target for collectors. Primates and even bird and orchid species are at risk. Over 212 amphibian species have been classified so far. At least 290 of these species are targeted for the pet trade.

In Thailand, surveys revealed that there are more than 347 orchids in a single market. These orchids are from all over the world and include many species that have not been described, as well as those illegally imported into Thailand.

These species are also subject to the same fate as the reptiles. Discoveries are often exploited by the market and sometimes researchers. These species are readily available on the internet. This leads to the extinction based solely on trade.

The pet trade is also a major threat to many bird species. There are thousands of birds in South America and an estimated 3,33 million per year from Southeast Asia (1,3 million from Indonesia alone).

The pet trade is also a major threat to many bird species. James Akena/Reuters

In just one single day, over 16160 birds from around 206 different species were listed for sale. Of these, 98% were indigenous to Indonesia, and 20% were found nowhere else on earth.

Fish also have similar statistics. Up to 98 % of fish in aquariums are caught wild from reefs. They also suffer mortality rates of 98 % within a single year. The wild populations of some species, like the clownfish, are down by as much as 75%.

Who is responsible?

Illegal wildlife trade is the 4th largest illicit trade in the world and is worth around USD 20 billion annually. Around half of the illicit wildlife trade comes from Southeast Asia.

But unlike many other illegal trades, the trade in wildlife is not hidden on the “dark net.” The enforcement is so weak that most traders of live animals and plants are able to operate without fear.

The Lacey Act prohibits the importation of live organisms out of their countries of origin in the US to prevent the potential laundering of wild-caught animals. As Europe does not have a similar law, it acts as a middleman and a destination for trade.

The wild fish population of some species has decreased by up to 75%. Pichi Chuang/Reuters

Most of the demand is coming from North American and European collectors. As only a small portion of the trade is regulated (2% international amphibian trade and 10% global reptile trading), action is urgently needed to protect these species.

Since many species of amphibians, reptiles, and orchids are not listed in CITES due to lack of information or recent discoveries, there is no regulation on the animal trade. Customs officers are not expected to be able to differentiate between a rare orchid and a common frog. Therefore, simpler restrictions must be implemented to stop this potentially harmful trade.

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