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Wildlife trade threatens public health and ecosystems
Date:5/1/2009

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.

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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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