Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Protected African species shipments to Asia soar: study

UNSUSTAINABLE:Trade in three reptile species exploded to 78,295 in 2015 from 8,488 in 2006, leading to population declines in Africa and raising cruelty concerns

AFP, HONG KONG

Shipments of protected African species, including tortoises, pythons and parrots, to Asia have soared since 2006 as demand grows for exotic pets, meats and other animal products, a study said yesterday.

Wildlife imports of leopard tortoises, African spurred tortoises and ball pythons into Asia increased nearly 10-fold in a decade, the report by monitoring network Traffic said, while trade in animal skins, including seals, also rose.

Although much of the trade is legal, all of the species in the study are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

“Until now, the legal wildlife trade between Africa and Asia has been largely overlooked,” said Willow Outhwaite, coauthor of the Eastward Bound study, adding that the report aims to “fill in some of the blanks in our understanding of this vast, complex” trade.

Using import and export databases, the report found that more than 1.3 million live animals and plants, 1.5 million skins and 2,000 tonnes of meat from convention-listed species have been exported from Africa to East and Southeast Asia since 2006.

Animals such as ball pythons and tortoises are popular in the Asian pet trade, because of their docile nature and low space requirements.

Trade in the three reptile species from Africa to Asia rose to 78,295 in 2015 from 8,488 creatures in 2006, the study found.

However, the trade might be having an effect in Africa, with reports of population declines of leopard tortoises due to unsustainable harvesting, the study said.

Commercial exports of wild African spurred tortoises — the world’s third-largest tortoise — have been banned since 2000, according to the convention.

The study also reported that nearly 100,000 gray parrots were exported between the continents over that period, before the central African bird — prized for its ability to mimic human speech — was reclassified as endangered in 2016, all but outlawing the trade.

The trade also raises concerns of animal cruelty, campaigners say.

“The lack of adequate animal protection laws and education, especially in China, is resulting in out-of-control animal abuse,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals member Jason Baker said. “If consumers had any idea what was happening, they’d be outraged.”

The report also found an increase in mammal skins shipped from Africa to Asia, especially Hong Kong and China.

The trade — mostly Cape fur seals hunted in Namibia — grew to a peak of 20,651 in 2012 from 1,972 skins in 2007.

Namibia issues seal hunting permits each year, despite outcry from groups that brand its annual cull a massacre for trade purposes.

Authorities in the southern African nation maintain that what they call seal harvesting is meant to control the burgeoning population that threatens the fishing industry.

However, activists slam these reasons as hypocritical.

The animals are harvested for their pelts, fat — which is used in beauty products — and male sexual organs, believed to have aphrodisiac properties in Asia.

The majority of animal skins imported from Africa to Asia are crocodile, used particularly in Japan and Singapore for luxury leather goods such as handbags, belts, shoes, wallets and briefcases, the study said.

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