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What is the illegal wildlife trade and why is it inhumane?
The illegal wildlife trade is a multi-billion dollar global industry estimated to involve billions of individual animals [1,2]. Wild animals are traded alive to be kept as pets or to be put on display or killed and their parts sold for consumption, traditional medicines, ornaments and jewellery. The trade is internationally condemned on conservation grounds, with an increasing recognition of the cruel and inhumane treatment inflicted on affected animals.
In Australia, our native wildlife, particularly birds and reptiles, are targets of the illegal wildlife trade due to a high international demand for these species as pets [3,4,5]. Exotic animals are also illegally smuggled into Australia to be kept by collectors3. Multi-agency state and federal enforcement operations have detected large-scale illegal wildlife trade operations in Australia involving organised criminal networks.
At every stage of the wildlife trade, animals are exposed to serious risks to their health and welfare including:
In addition to the major risk to the conservation of endangered and threatened species, the illegal trade in wildlife is a serious and escalating animal welfare issue requiring urgent action.
Action is needed by governments, law enforcement and other responsible agencies to increase detection, investigation and conviction of illegal wildlife traffickers. Individuals can help too by reporting suspicious activities and facilitating cultural change to reduce the demand for wild animals and products.
If you witness any suspicious wildlife activity such as people capturing or transporting wild animals without due cause or you see advertisements for prohibited wildlife for sale, submit a report to the relevant authorities.
1. Smith KF et al (2009) Reducing the Risks of the Wildlife Trade. Science 324:594–595
2. Rosen GE and Smith KF (2010) Summarizing the Evidence on the International Trade in Illegal Wildlife. EcoHealth 7:24–32
3. Alacs E and Georges A (2008) Wildlife across our borders: a review of the illegal trade in Australia. Australian Journal of Forensic Science 40:147–160
4. Barry C (2011) Australia’s wildlife blackmarket trade. Australian Geographic. Available at: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2011/08/australias-wildlife-blackmarket-trade/. (Accessed: 2nd March 2017)
5. Australian Institute of Criminology (2010) Illegal trade in fauna and flora and harms to biodiversity. Available at: http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/rpp/100-120/rpp109/07.html.
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