Approximately 36% of all known reptile species are sold online, reports a study in Nature Communications. Three-quarters of this trade is in species that are not covered by international regulations and includes endangered and range-restricted species, such as the speckled cape tortoise and Seychelles tiger chameleon.
Gaps in international efforts to regulate the trade of wildlife mean that large numbers of species are not monitored. As a result, the true extent of the wildlife trade and the potential impact on traded species, including groups such as reptiles, is unknown.
Alice Hughes and colleagues used an automated web search to document the online trade of reptiles from 2000–2019. The data from online reptile retailers was then combined with information from two international wildlife trade databases: CITES and LEMIS. The authors found that 3,943 reptile species were traded online (representing approximately 36% of all known reptile species), 79% of which are not subject to CITES trade regulation. Approximately 90% of the traded reptile species documented and half of the total number of individuals had been captured from the wild. When looking at the geography of this trade, they identified Vietnam as a major source of some of the more threatened species and that Europe and North America are the major consumer markets.
The authors argue that if we fail to mitigate the impact of unregulated, but legal trade, small-ranged and endemic reptile species may be the next victims of the ongoing biodiversity crisis.
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