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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Poachers Upsetting Ecological Balance

Rhinoceros grazing in field

Wade Lambert/

In a paper published in Biological Conservation, researchers from the University of Adelaide and an international team of experts have concluded that illegal global wildlife trade impacts species, ecosystems and society in unsustainable ways. Co-author Dr. Oliver Stringham states, “The trade in wild vertebrates alone is estimated to involve a quarter of terrestrial species, while the trade in ocean life, invertebrates, plants and fungi remains considerably overlooked and poorly documented. As a threat to targeted species, the trade represents one of the five major drivers of biodiversity loss and extinction at global scale.”

The incidental effects of wildlife harvesting include disrupted interactions between species and ecosystem structure, altering species composition, functioning and services such as seed dispersal, pollination and carbon storage. Other secondary effects are decreases in eco-tourism and increases in pandemics that originate in wildlife. Co-author and Ph.D. candidate Adam Toomes notes, “A large diversity of species are not protected by international regulation and are traded without any formal documentation process, making it incredibly difficult to evaluate the associated costs and benefits.” Tools available to curb the trade include bans, quotas, protected areas, certification, captive breeding and propagation, education and awareness.

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