What is the illegal wildlife trade?

April 18th, 2013 azgardens

diver feeding fishWhat do you know about the illegal wildlife trade? It is the fourth largest illegal global trade. The first three are narcotics, counterfeiting of currency and human trafficking. The illegal wildlife trade, of course, is a serious problem in the world that continues to get worse, having devastating effects on local ecosystems and unbalancing cycles of life. What does this have to do with aquariums though?


In the last post, we discussed Portland Aquarium co-owner Ammon Covino. He is facing jail time for his illegal purchase of six nurse sharks, among other shady business dealings. Can we say that Covino dabbled in the illegal wildlife trade? Well, what he did was illegal…


According to Conservation International, “Driven by consumer giants like the United States and China, today’s annual wildlife trade is a multi-billion dollar enterprise – much of it illegal. […] Unregulated hunting and trading in biodiversity-rich countries, such as Cambodia and Myanmar, now joins habitat loss and climate change as primary causes of species decline.”


As you see, unregulated hunting will inevitably lead to species decline. It is tearing apart lush countries like Cambodia and Myanmar. Many just do not care. When money is involved, ethics tend to go out the window. This is not about research and conservation, money and greed drives the illegal wildlife trade. Did money and greed drive Ammon Covino? It seems so. After all, he acquired the nurse sharks via divers who illegally harvest the Florida Keys. If that isn’t a glaring example of the illegal wildlife trade, what is?


Covino’s case isn’t unique; this happens on a day-to-day basis. There is a diver in a body of water right at this moment, illegally harvesting marine animals. He may sell them to an aquarium near you. At first glance, this seems to be an impossible trade to stop. Researchers, scientists and government officials need to educate the public more on the topic. To stop such a trade, civilians must be aware from bottom to top that illegal harvesting ruins the ecosystem. When other species decline, humanity gets slightly sicker. Perhaps stopping the illegal wildlife trade depends on a stronger local presence. If you care about your community, you will care about its wildlife. What do you think?


*Image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil

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