MORE than 5,500 species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles are bought and sold on the worldwide animal market, a volume that is around 50 percent higher than earlier estimates, a study published in the journal Science said.
The legal and illegal trade of wildlife as pets or for animal products is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and recognised as one of the most severe threats to biodiversity.
But the extent of the trade has remained poorly understood.
The research by scientists at the University of Florida and University of Sheffield found that threatened and endangered species were disproportionately represented. Overall, 5,579 of the 31,745 vertebrate species are traded, or 18 percent.
Among mammals, the figure rose to 27 percent, with the animals mainly used to produce products – for example pangolins, which are killed for their scales and meat.
Amphibians and reptiles are more often sold as exotic pets or to zoos, while 23 percent of bird species are traded, both as companion animals and for their use in medicine.
The authors predicted that future trade, both legal and illegal, will add up to 3,196 more species to the list, mainly threatened or endangered ones.
“Often, species are flagged for conservation only after a severe decline is documented,” they concluded.
(This article is published on Junior Standard on 16 October 2019)
Global wildlife trade across the tree of life
Illegal wildlife trade – WWF