More than a third of reptile species are bought and sold online in often-unregulated international trade, researchers said Tuesday, warning of the impact on wild populations of a pet market that puts a bounty on rare and newly discovered animals.
Even endangered species and those with small habitats — such as the speckled cape tortoise and Seychelles tiger chameleon — are bought and sold in online forums, according to the new study by researchers in Thailand and China, who found that three-quarters of trade is in species not covered by international regulation.
The market primarily caters to buyers in Europe and North America — the British Federation for Herpetologists has reported that there are more pet reptiles than dogs in Britain.
But unlike most other pets, the study found that 90 percent of traded reptile species and half of traded individuals are captured from the wild.
“We did not expect that almost 40 percent of the world’s largest terrestrial vertebrate group would be in trade, that so many endangered and critically endangered species would be included,” co-author Alice Hughes of China’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden told AFP.
Researchers used the database of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which monitors international trade in its listed species and the Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) covering wildlife imports into the US.
The authors also searched some 25,000 web pages based on keywords in five languages and found that at least 36 percent of reptile species are being traded — or 3,943