The global wildlife trade reaches much deeper into North America than you might think.
Through both online sales and in expos that are hosted across Canada and the US, wild animals are sold as exotic pets and for their parts as traditional medicine. The trade involves animal cruelty and is a risk to human health. Research estimates that in 2019 there were 1.4 million wild animal kept as pets in Canada and 17 million in the US.
The global wildlife trade also threatens the biodiversity of natural ecosystems across North America, as unwanted pets that are either deliberately released or escape, risk becoming invasive species.
The negative impacts of the global wildlife trade are dire, putting our economy and everyday life in danger. Read more to find out how big this problem really is, and learn what you can do to help end the global wildlife trade before it's too late.
A key unwanted side effect of the global wildlife trade is the devastation caused by invasive species. This phenomenon has the potential to disrupt entire ecosystems and can eradicate native species.
Whether by being released by pet owners who were not prepared for the care they require, or by escaping from a destroyed python breeding facility during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, one thing everyone agrees on is that the Burmese python has invaded Florida.
With no natural predators, the Burmese pythons have wreaked havoc on local biodiversity. Population decreases have been recorded for several native species: with a reported 98.9% decrease for opossum, 87.5% for bobcats, 99.3% for raccoons, and 100% for rabbit observations.
In a desperate attempt to stop the damage done to the Everglades, Florida now allows for legal hunting, without a permit or a license, of these snakes, with the 5,000th python capture recently reported. Green iguanas and the Tegu lizards seem to be the next reptiles causing havoc in Florida, with legal hunting also being permitted. In July 2020 the Governor of Florida signed into law legislation that bans the sale, import, breeding and ownership in Florida of the green iguana and the tegu lizard.
The global wildlife trade must be stopped before more ecosystems are destroyed.
‘Morphs’ is a name for Ball pythons that are selectively bred to have fancy colours and patterns. Morphs are the vast majority of snakes sold in North America via exotic pet expos or online shops. Unfortunately these ‘made to order’ snakes can suffer from several genetic disorders including nervous system disorders, spinal and skull deformities.
North America’s version of a live wildlife market is the traveling pet expo. Happening every weekend somewhere across the country, thousands of reptiles are stuffed into plastic containers and boxes and are put on display for days at a time. Our investigation found the following conditions at these shows:
Inadequate space: animals typically remained in plastic containers for the duration of the event, and many of them were not able to assume normal body posture (i.e., stretch their body in full).
No provision or access to water for most animals during the event.
A lack of hiding places, leaving animals fully exposed to visitors, lights and other stimuli, regardless of the shy and/or nocturnal nature of the animal.
Captive reptiles are well documented as potential carriers of pathogens like parasites, and bacteria that cause human illness together with the stress caused from these conditions is a breeding ground for a next disease outbreak.
Every year, thousands of black bears are killed across North America. Part of this is fueled by a persisting demand for bear bile products.
Bear Bile is sold as traditional medicine mainly in Asia, but bear bile products have also been found on sale in Canada and the USA.
Black bears are also tragically killed for their gall bladders, paws, and other body parts. And it's much more pervasive than you think.
According to media reports:
In 2015, an undercover operation in Vancouver discovered an acupuncture clinic offering illegal bear bile treatments.
In 2018, a black bear gallbladder-trafficking network was dismantled in the province of Quebec.
As recent as February 2020, five poachers were convicted for the illegal trafficking of black bear parts from the province of Saskatchewan to Ontario. They were trafficking black bear gallbladders and paws to be used in soup and skin creams.
You now know that the global wildlife trade is much bigger and much more dangerous than you thought it was. You know that for many species remaining wild populations are being driven to extinction. You know that millions of animals are suffering every single day. You know that the conditions these animals are forced to endure are rife for disease. You know that diseases can be transferred between wildlife and humans. And as of this year, you know how truly devastating a new disease can be when it spreads through every community on the planet.
You can help stop the next pandemic by taking action today. Please sign the petition now so we can deliver it to the G20 summit in Saudi Arabia this November. Sign it and tell the world's leaders that you demand an end to the global wildlife trade before it's too late.
Photo credit: (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission via Facebook)