Smugglers in wildlife ‘are wiping out species’

World Wide Fund for Nature report on trade in endangered wildlife

source: Michael McCarthy
Independent February 18 2002 p12

The World Wide Fund for Nature has released ‘Traded Towards Extinction’, a report on trade in endangered wildlife, analysing items confiscated on their entry into Britain. Some 570 items are confiscated by customs each day, including products made from rhinos and leopards, and live birds and frogs. Interpol estimates the value of wildlife crime at over 5 billion pounds sterling annually, second only to drugs in terms of money from illegal trade. The report is concerned that there are insufficient customs resources to tackle the problem, which could lead to extinction for some species. There tend to be few prosecutions, and the law should be changed, the report adds.

Imported live animals include fennec foxes, rattlesnakes and poison arrow frogs. Many animals die on the journey. An estimated 96% of legally traded animals come from the wild, and 88% of parrots imported into Britain are wild caught. Trade in African grey parrots in particular involves corruption, with export quotas exceeded by many countries. Over 6% of wild African grey parrots are traded every year, of a total population estimated at 600,000 in the wild, and such levels of trade cannot be sustained. Australian tree ferns are especially popular in Britain, and this also endangers wildlife habitats in their states of origin, such as Tasmania and Victoria in Australia.