International wildlife trade threatens Southeast Asia's rare species

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London, December 23 (ANI): A Dutch conservation biologist working in Britain has said that the international wildlife trade is a major threat to Southeast Asia's rare species.

According to a report in Nature News, the biologist in question is Vincent Nijman of Oxford Brookes University, UK.

Shepherd reports that more than 35 million rare seahorses, butterflies, reptiles, mammals, fish and birds were exported legally from Southeast Asian countries between 1998 and 2007.

Some 30 million of these animals were caught in the wild, with the remainder coming from breeding programmes.

Southeast Asia is a hub of the international wildlife trade, and globalization and the increased buying power of many countries in the region is increasing the demand for rare species - as pets and for medicines and food.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), created to regulate the trade in protected species, went into force in 1975.

Under the treaty, currently signed by 175 countries, including all of southeast Asia, certain rare species can be exported legally only if the authorities can show that their trade is not adversely affecting animal populations in what is known as a non-detriment finding.

"But many developing countries lack the capacity to make non-detriment findings," said Nijman.

According to Nijman, the new numbers suggest that the non-detriment findings are too lenient and the legal trade is a risk to threatened species.

"The only thing we know about many of these species is that they are being harvested in the millions," Nijman said.

"We let this trade happen - supposedly regulated by CITES. But we must be honest, we have no idea if it is sustainable," he added.

In all, Nijman calculated that of the 35 million animals exported between 1998 and 2007, 16 million were seahorses and more than 17 million were reptiles.

With the exception of birds, exports for all groups of animals increased or remained stable.

According to CITES, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and China are the biggest exporters of wild-caught animals, and Japan and the European Union are the most significant importers, through the pet trade.

The trade in animal parts for Chinese traditional medicine is booming, despite bans.Chris R. Shepherd, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

Nijman obtained his data from more than 53,000 records of imports, exports and re-exports of CITES-listed species as reported by southeast Asian countries on the World Conservation Monitoring Center CITES website. (ANI)

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