A new study has found that nearly one in every five species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles are bought and sold on the wildlife market globally. Out of 31,745 vertebrate species on Earth, 5,579 (18%) are traded — a finding that is 40-60 per cent higher than previous estimates. The study, by researchers at the University of Florida and the University of Sheffield, is published in the journal Science.
Trade in wildlife breaks up as 27 per cent (1,441) of mammal species, 23 per cent (2,345) of bird species, almost 10 per cent (609) of amphibian species and 12 per cent (1,184) of reptiles. The authors predict that future trade will impact over 3,000 additional species, taking the total to about 8,700 species. They said the wildlife trade industry generates between $8 billion and 21 billion, pushing some of these species closer to extinction.
Trade of wildlife for luxury foods, medicinal parts and as pets are the key factors contributing to the extinction risk faced by of vertebrates globally. Over 45 per cent of bird species and 51 per cent of amphibian species were found to have been traded as pets. On the other hand, 90 per cent of mammals and over 63 per cent of bird species are traded in the form of products. For example, the pangolin is hunted both for meat and its scales, while the rhino is poached for its horn. The study found that overall for vertebrates, 44 per cent are traded as pets and over 60 per cent as products.
The hotspots for mammal trade are in Africa and Southeast Asia, while Australia and Madagascar are the main trade hotspots for reptiles, the study said. While wildlife pet trade flourishes in the tropics, product trade is concentrated in tropical Africa and Southeast Asia, including the Himalayas.