Experts are warning of a surge in the illegal reptile trade and its impact on animals’ natural habitats after reptiles and their parts have become a popular choice of pet. The trade is worth between $7 and $23bn annually, making it among the most profitable illegal industries in the world, according to a report by the United Nations. While reptiles comprise a small proportion of illegal trade, numbers are increasing. Many reptiles are captured and kept in inhumane conditions before being sold to collectors, breeders or restaurants. Increased public awareness and responsibility among governments is needed, according to experts.
Experts Warn of Surge in Illegal Reptile Trade
Reptiles have long been a popular pet choice for animal lovers. However, the demand for exotic reptiles and their parts has led to a rising illegal trade in these creatures. Experts are now warning of a surge in the illegal reptile trade that not only puts these species at risk but also affects their natural habitats.
The United Nations recently released a report which stated that the global illegal wildlife trade is worth between $7 and $23 billion annually, making it one of the most profitable illegal industries in the world. While reptiles only make up a small percentage of the trade, the experts warn that the numbers are increasing.
Illegal trade harms species and their habitats
The mass trade of reptiles is putting a number of species at risk of extinction. Reptiles are often captured in the wild and transported through inhumane conditions. Many are then sold on the black market to collectors, breeders, or even restaurants as delicacies. The demand for their skins, meat, and organs has also led to habitat destruction and deforestation.
This illegal trade is especially prevalent in parts of Asia and Africa where reptiles are an important part of traditional medicine and cultural practices. Snakes, for example, are often used for their venom, which is claimed to have medicinal benefits. While the use of some animal parts in traditional medicine can be scientifically supported, the illegal trade is contributing to the erosion of biodiversity and habitat loss.
The role of social media in fueling the illegal reptile trade
The ease of selling and buying reptiles online has only made the problem worse. Websites and social media platforms have become an important tool for sellers and buyers of illegal reptiles. The anonymity and lack of regulations make it easy for traffickers to implement their trade unnoticed.
According to reports, the number of live reptile adverts on online marketplaces increased by 60% in the UK between 2014 and 2019. This trend is not restricted to the UK, with similar spikes in adverts being reported across the globe.
What actions can be taken?
Efforts to reduce the illegal reptile trade can take various forms. These include stronger law enforcement, better monitoring of online marketplaces, and more stringent regulations on trade and import. Governments need to take the responsibility of implementing and enforcing laws that protect reptiles and their habitats.
It is, however, important to note that the illegal trade in reptiles goes beyond just law enforcement. Public awareness campaigns can also play a role in reducing demand for illegal reptiles, and awareness should be raised around the ethical and environmental consequences of this trade.
Q: Is it legal to own a reptile as a pet?
A: In most countries, owning reptiles as pets is legal. However, it is important to ensure that you are purchasing from a licensed breeder. Buying from illegal sources only adds to the problem.
Q: Are all exotic reptiles being traded illegally?
A: No. There are legal ways to trade exotic reptiles, but this needs to be done responsibly and with consideration for the conservation of the species.
Q: What can I do to help stop the illegal trade of reptiles?
A: Awareness is key. By educating yourself and others about the impact of the illegal trade, you can actively choose not to participate and discourage others from doing so as well. Additionally, you can support organizations working towards conservation efforts and reducing the illegal wildlife trade.