World wildlife trade affects one in five species, says report

World wildlife trade affects one in five species, says report
Java sparrows for sale at a bird market in Purwokerto, Java, Indonesia. Credit: Gabby Salazar

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 Science said Thursday.

The legal and illegal trade of wildlife as pets or for animal products is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and recognized 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 rises to 27 percent, with the animals mainly used to produce products—for example pangolins, which are killed for their scales and for their meat.

Graphic showing the percentage of different animal classes which are traded and the percentage of those under threat which are t
Graphic showing the percentage of different animal classes which are traded and the percentage of those under threat which are traded

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.

There is a growing demand, for example, for the ivory-like casque of the helmeted hornbill, which has resulted in tens of thousands being traded since 2012.

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, based on similarities with currently exploited species—for example, the African pangolin, which started to be exploited after Asian pangolins became harder to find.

"Often, species are flagged for conservation only after a severe decline is documented," they concluded.


Explore further

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More information: B.R. Scheffers el al., "Global wildlife trade across the tree of life," Science (2019). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.aav5327
Journal information: Science

© 2019 AFP

Citation: World wildlife trade affects one in five species, says report (2019, October 3) retrieved 14 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-10-world-wildlife-affects-species.html
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Oct 03, 2019
This statistical number seems suspect; rodents, bats and shrews are the most abundant mammals, accounting for well over half of all known mammals; as a group this trio are rarely traded. Of 5400+/- species of mammals, it seems improbable that there are so many in trade that it would tip the balance.
In the 10,000+ bird species of birds, passerine birds are the vast majority, and while species are traded, it's nothing like a fifth of all sp. of passerines. It's mostly finches. Among other orders of birds some are definitely heavily exploited. Still, it does not rise to a quarter of all species in these orders.
Some reptiles are commercially traded. This is another 10,000+ species. 90% of all reptiles are lizards and snakes. The data for trade in this group is hard to access. It seems still unlikely that a fifth of their species are in trade.
90% of the 8000 species amphibians are frogs. There are not many in trade.
Where are the statistics for this article?

Oct 03, 2019
So, after analyzing the stats in the article, it does seem like there is quite a reach to include species.
They supposedly complied this from the entire history of trade in animals under CITES.
There is no attempt to winnow out duplication, or outright mistaken identities in this number.
9% of all amphibians? Something like 720 species in trade? This is most certainly an error.
It calls all their methods into question.

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