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

p>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.

Recommendations:

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

Page: 1 2 3

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