News Release

Global wildlife trade is higher than previous estimates show

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

At least one in five vertebrate species on Earth are bought and sold on the wildlife market, according to a new study, the trade estimates for which are 40-60% higher than prior recorded estimates. The researchers who led the study also developed a model to predict which species that aren't traded now would likely be traded in the future, a tool that could help traditionally reactive wildlife managers become more proactive, they say. The trade of wildlife as pets or for animal products, such as horns, ivory, medicines or meat, is a multi-billion-dollar industry. It is also widely recognized as one of the most severe threats to plants and animals. However, the extent and impact of wildlife trade on global biodiversity across the animal kingdom remains poorly understood. Brett Scheffers, Brunno Oliveira and colleagues evaluated the effects of wildlife trade across 31,745 terrestrial bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile species using data from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) and data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The authors found that 5,579 animals, or roughly 18% of the total vertebrate species included in their analysis, are currently being traded globally. They say impacts of trade tend to be higher among certain groups (i.e., birds and mammals, versus reptiles and amphibians), higher in threatened species than in non-threatened ones, and concentrated in specific regions of the globe. Further analysis allowed the authors to identify 3,196 more species, which are currently overlooked in the markets but could be at risk for future commodification based on their shared similarities with currently exploited species. Sheffers, Oliveira et al., suggest that at least 8,775 species could soon be at risk of extinction. They stress the need for proactive strategies designed to combat global wildlife trade.


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