A Trade in Misery & Death
Despite the risks to local wild populations and despite the terrible toll in suffering and loss of life in capture and transit, wild species are caught in foreign lands, shipped to the UK and sold in pet shops or by other means. Laboratories, in the so-called civilised world, pay for the capture and shipping of primates, for laboratory animal experimentation.
Huge percentages of all these unfortunates die in transit or in lairages. Tropical birds, tropical fish, reptiles and many other species suffer this iniquitous predation.
The extreme profitability of the industry compensates for the drastic wastage involved. Some species are threatened with extinction. To make things worse, some conservation experts advocate, in deprived areas of the world, cashing in on the ‘value’ of wildlife on world markets, so that its ‘value' becomes appreciated by the indigenous human population, thus hopefully leading to conservation efforts. This argument seems full of potential fallacy and is likely to have the opposite effect.
Apart from the terrible toll, whether in loss of life or in serious suffering, we have real-life scenarios in the UK, in which ‘escapes' of exotic species colonise their new home country, taking over ecological niches from indigenous species, interbreeding with indigenous species and sometimes destroying environments. Sometimes, the original importation was done with the best intentions. The Parakeets in the London area (1960), the Egyptian Goose (18th Century), the Ruddy Duck (1960), the Australian Black Swan, the Mink, the American Crayfish, the Grey Squirrel and the Canada Goose are clear examples, of varying ‘severity'. An added risk exists; that of the spread of exotic infectious animal diseases and zoonoses (diseases transmissible to man). On October 21st, 2005, British authorities confirmed that a parrot imported from Surinam had died in quarantine in Essex, after being infected with avian influenza, which was later confirmed as the deadly H5N1 strain.
The best protection for so-called ‘valuable' exotic species (whether mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods etc.) or their products (e.g. fur, hides, snake skins, alligator skins, crocodile skins and ivory) is to remove the market. If people don’t buy, no one can sell!
There is some legislation, affecting certain species:
- Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997
- EU CITES Legislation
An article citing more detailed and authoritative information can be found at:
Another example of unwise importation (while not exactly representing exotic trade) is the Harlequin Ladybird. This was imported to the USA from Asia in order to perform biological ‘pest control'. It has since taken over in a major way and is invading the UK, too. It is very predatory and is a threat to a great many indigenous species of ladybirds, butterflies and other insects, that are such integral parts of our UK ecosystem, seriously threatening our biodiversity. It is hard to imagine what those who make these mistakes think might happen!