Southeast Asia’s “jaw-dropping” wildlife trade a concern as virus outbreak continues – dpa international




Frogs for sale in a Singapore wet market (Simon Roughneen)

Frogs for sale in a Singapore wet market (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Newly compiled statistics published by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, show that more than 200 tons of African elephant ivory and almost a million pangolins have been trafficked through South-east Asia since the turn of the century.

“Not a day goes by without a wildlife seizure taking place in South-east Asia, and all too often in volumes that are jaw-dropping,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy TRAFFIC’s Southeast Asia director.

The trade in wildlife across Asia has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak, amid speculation that the virus – which has killed more than 2,000 people – originated in a central China wet market where wild animals were sold and eaten.

“llegal wildlife trade will always provide opportunities for viruses to jump from wildlife to people,” TRAFFIC’s senior communications officer Elizabeth John said.

“Limiting interaction between wildlife and humans through strong enforcement against illegal wildlife trade and wildlife markets selling illegal live animals, parts and products, is key to mitigating future risk associated with transmission of disease between animals and humans,” she added.

Along with 225,000 kilograms of elephant ivory trafficked from Africa between 2008-19, the authors estimated that 895,000 pangolins and 96,000 kilograms of pangolin scales were seized across the 10-country region between 2000 and 2019.

The US government-funded report also covers the seizure of 100,000 pig-nosed turtles in Indonesia between 2003–19 and 45,000 songbirds in Sumatra and Java, Indonesia’s two most populous islands, from 2018–19, as well as “over 3,800 bear equivalents seized in Asia, implicating almost all Southeast Asian countries, from 2000–2016.”

The true size of the region’s wildlife trafficking black market is much bigger, TRAFFIC believes, as the statistics and estimates it compiled cover only seizures of trafficked wildlife or animal parts by police and other state authorities.

Organized crime and impunity for perpetrators were among the perceived causes cited by the authors for the colossal illicit wildlife trade in the region.

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