Experts have warned Express.co.uk that the danger of zoonotic diseases, or the style of disease that passes from animals to humans, has been growing in Europe, because the continent becomes a hotbed for international wildlife trade. A latest report released today by Pro Wildlife, Humane Society International and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has warned that the European Union is becoming the most important hub and destination for stolen wildlife from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. Zoonotic diseases have gained prominence over the past few years, particularly as many experts blame the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic on the wildlife that was traded on the wet markets in Wuhan, China.
Experts warn that many wild animals are captured from countries like Brazil and Sri Lanka, where the practice is banned, but due to loopholes and “European complicity”, these animals find themselves within the European markets.
Chatting with Express.co.uk, Dr Sandra Altherr, Head of Science at Pro Wildlife explained that EU wildlife traders exploit loopholes and lack of regulation surrounding many species to legally trade exotic animals.
She said: “What we have now observed is that the demand for exotic pets remains to be very for the reason that past 20 years, especially the demand for rare species, which is something that’s relevant for conservation.
“Although a lot of these species could also be globally endangered, they usually are not necessarily covered by international laws and so long as this isn’t the case, they may be taken from the wild and sold to Europe.
“The problem we have now is that a few of these species are in countries which have strict national laws like Brazil or Sri Lanka or Australia. They do not allow any export of wild-caught animals, and nevertheless, these animals show up within the European pet trade, also after all within the US and Japan.
“In Europe, the traders are very much aware that they haven’t any legal risk, so that they sell these animals within the open.”
She noted that even when these traders were confronted with the indisputable fact that these animals were illegally caught from their native countries, “they only laugh and say that it is not forbidden here within the EU”.
The report noted that the EU is one in all the biggest importers of animals destined for the exotic pet trade, nevertheless, only a fraction of those species were actually covered by the laws.
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The report added that animals just like the Philippine sailfin lizard and the glass frog species from Latin America are popular targets within the exotic trade at present.
The wildlife trade has been particularly linked to the spread of zoonotic diseases, and Dr Altherr warned that the risks of those diseases reaching humans are getting higher.
She said: “In relation to the import of exotic mammals, the danger of zoonotic disease is getting higher. Are you able to imagine that we even import bats from Africa and Asia? We also import squirrels from Latin America and south-east Asia.”
Ilaria Silvestre, Head of EU Policy & Campaigns at IFAW warned that the Web has now change into a serious channel for directly connecting traders and clients from all around the world.
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She said: “It’s the best platform for criminal animal traders. The net trafficking of protected species, which is partly fuelled by the promotion of exotic pet ownership and interactions on social media, poses an enormous challenge for enforcement authorities.
“Illegal wildlife trade, each online and in physical markets, is increasingly targeting rare wild species that usually are not protected by the EU laws, and it is a contributor to the catastrophic biodiversity loss seen globally.”
The three animal and wildlife protection organisations have demanded EU motion to introduce a law to ban the import, sale, purchase and possession of wildlife that has been illegally sourced in its country of origin.
This demand has also been repeatedly backed by the European Parliament over the past few years, in several adopted resolutions that urge the European Commission to deliver such laws.