Forty-four years of global trade in CITES-listed snakes: Trends and implications for conservation and public health

Author links open overlay panelFleurHierinkab1IsabelleBolona1Andrew M.DursoadRafaelRuiz de CastañedaaCarlosZambrana-TorreliocEvan A.EskewcNicolasRayabShow morehttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108601Get rights and content

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320720306595

Highlights

Trade in CITES-listed snakes is dominated by commercially purposed pythons.•

Live snakes are mainly exported by Ghana, Indonesia, Togo and Benin, and imported by China and the USA.•

Traded snakes are increasingly reported as being sourced from captivity rather than the wild.•

Potentially invasive snake species are heavily traded as pets.•

Traded venomous snakes are mainly wild-caught, potentially increasing snakebite risk.

Abstract

Trade in venomous and non-venomous snakes can negatively impact wild snake populations and may drive snakebite risk for people. However, we often lack sufficient trade data to identify where the potential risks for snake population decline and snakebite are highest. Currently, the legal, international trade of 164 snake species is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). We analyzed CITES-listed snake trade from 1975 to 2018 using the recently released shipment-level CITES Trade Database to identify spatiotemporal trends of snake trade and generate insights regarding snake conservation and potential public health risks from snakebite. Commercially purposed pythons dominated the global snake trade, comprising 38.8% of all traded snakes. Live snakes were mainly exported by Ghana, Indonesia, Togo, and Benin, and imported by China and the USA. Venomous snake trade comprised 10.8% of all traded snakes, and over 75% of wild-sourced venomous snakes came from Indonesia. Although traded snakes in recent years are increasingly comprised of captive-bred animals, the majority of snakes are still wild-sourced (> 60% between 2015 and 2017), including IUCN-listed species, with potentially detrimental impacts on conservation status. Further, the CITES Trade Database reveals geographic regions where venomous snakes are sourced from the wild, posing potential risks to snake catchers, traders, and pet owners. The database also documents the movement of non-native snake species through trade, with implications for conservation of native species. This study represents the first global analysis focused specifically on CITES-listed snake trade using the CITES Trade Database.

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