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What is the wildlife trade? And what are the answers to managing it?

This is an excerpt from an article written by Dr Ross Harvey and published online by Conservation Action Trust on 23 April, 2020.

The legal global wildlife trade is worth roughly $300 billion. Of more than 31,500 listed terrestrial birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, approximately 5,500 are traded. Research predicts that a further 3,196 species may be traded in the future, placing a possible 8,775 species at risk of extinction. 

Serious attempts to regulate the trade in wildlife and plants began in 1973. And in 1975 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of Wild Fauna and Flora came into force. It now boasts a membership of 183 parties. 

A great deal of controversy surrounds the purpose and efficacy of the convention. But its original text recognises that:

“Wild fauna and flora in their many beautiful and varied forms are an irreplaceable part of the natural systems of the earth which must be protected for this and the generations to come.”

With many species now at risk of extinction, questions are being raised about the sustainability of the global wildlife trade and whether it can be reliably regulated or not. 

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