Illegitimate Insect Trade

Ornithoptera priamas reared by Enthusiast, Gareth Welsh Photo: Teesside Gazette

Ornithoptera priamas reared by Enthusiast, Gareth Welsh
Photo: Teesside Gazette

National Geographic Magazine has a feature on wildlife smuggling. Hobbyists like to observe and care for exotic organisms of all types from vertebrates to plants and insects. Small organisms such as insects are relatively easy to smuggle in numbers that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Smuggling creates problems and potential for problems as I have posted earlier. In areas where the organisms can be collected, poachers can disrupt fragile ecosystems and severely reduce the population of rare species. Managing the problem at the level of the host country is difficult. Often, these organisms are present in remote areas and scattered over a range that makes detecting poachers difficult. Ecosystems may have aesthetic value or value to the organisms that live there, but lack economic value to humans. In such cases, there is no economic value to fund enforcement.  Poachers can make far more than the local enforcement personnel which can lead to bribes and corruption. Poaching cannot be stopped by the originating country alone; the cooperation of the countries where organisms are sold is essential.

Why should importing countries care? Countries may have their own protected species and need widespread cooperation. Smuggling organisms without inspection has the potential to import diseases, parasites, pathogens and other harmful species unintentionally.

Biodiversity smuggling has no easy solutions. Education can help people become aware of legitimate and illegitimate activity. Breeding programs and limiting sales to organisms bred in captivity is part of the solution. A breeding industry can help satisfy the demand and give economic encouragement to legitimate breeders to help stop illegitimate trade.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Endangered Species, Environment, Invasive Species, Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

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