Wildlife imports into the United States are fragmented and insufficiently coordinated, failing to accurately list more than four in five species entering the country.
So reports a team of scientists from the Wildlife Trust, Brown University, Pacific Lutheran University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Global Invasive Species Programme.
A paper on their findings is published in this week's issue of the journal Science.
The poorly regulated U.S. wildlife trade can lead to devastating effects on ecosystems, native species, food supply chains and human health.
"As our world, in many senses, grows smaller and smaller with the ease of international travel, the network of connections has increased, facilitating the spread of diseases," said Rita Teutonico, senior advisor for integrative activities in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences (SBE).
SBE co-funded this research through the agency's Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) priority area. HSD was supported by all NSF Directorates, and by NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering and Office of Polar Programs.
"These scientists report a pattern of trade in wildlife that includes a very large number of animals, coupled with a poor understanding of what species are traded," said James Collins, NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences. "The findings highlight the need for further research because of the unknown effects these animals and their pathogens can have on native organisms."
A global trade in wildlife generates hundreds of billions of dollars each year. The researchers report that during a six-year period from 2000 through 2006, the U.S. imported more than 1.5 billion live animals.
"That's more than 200 million animals a year--unexpectedly high," said scientist Peter Daszak, president of the Wildlife Trust, who co-led the research.
The animals collected were from wild populations in more than 190 countries around the world, and were intended for commercial sale in the U.S.--primarily in the pet trade.
"This incredible number of imports is equivalent to every single person in the U.S. owning at least five pets," said biologist Katherine Smith of Brown University, co-leader of the study.
More than 86 percent of shipments contained animals that were not classified to the level of species, making it impossible to assess the full diversity of animals imported, or calculate the risk of non-native species introductions or disease transmission.
"Shipments are coming in labeled 'live vertebrate' or 'fish,'" said Daszak. "If we don't know what animals are in there, how do we know which are going to become invasive species or carry diseases that could affect livestock, wildlife--or ourselves?"
The wildlife trade has previously led to disease introductions such as the 2003 monkeypox outbreak following the import of infected African rodents for the pet trade.
"The threat to public health is real, as the majority of emerging diseases come from wildlife," said Smith. "Most of these imported animals originate in Southeast Asia--a hotspot for emerging diseases."
The research team calls for direct measures to decrease the risk of such "pathogen pollution" and proposes guidelines to protect human, animal, and ecosystem health.
Stricter record keeping should be required to inform risk analysis on animal imports.
Third-party surveillance and testing should be established for both known and unknown pathogens at the exportation points in foreign countries.
Greater public education is needed to educate individuals, importers, veterinarians and pet industry advocates about the dangers of diseases that emerge from wildlife and that can make their way to domesticated animals and humans.
"We need to look at all the factors that impact ecosystems--the whole picture," said Daszak. "The global wildlife trade is promoting a process that will impact our health and the health of the planet."
Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology