The Asia-Pacific region, covering over 60 countries, is home to 17 of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots. Sadly, this continent is also an epicentre of the global wildlife trade.
In live animal markets wild animals are sold as exotic pets and for meat or traditional medicines.
Every step of the way, these animals are treated horrifically. The conditions where they are captured, farmed, and sold are breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases that affect millions of humans every year.
From the transcontinental pangolin trade, to Indonesian wildlife markets and the bear bile industry across Asia, the wildlife trade in Asia is more extensive, cruel and dangerous than you might think.
In recent years, there has been a disturbing increase in the popularity of people wanting otters as pets. Because of this demand, more otters are being ripped from their wild homes and illegally traded. “We went undercover to document the shocking practices this trade uses to satisfy the growing demand for otters to be kept as pets.” said Liam Slattery, World Animal Protection’s Head of Investigations.
In addition to increasing the risk of zoonotic disease, you should be alarmed to learn that this practice is putting the very future of some otter species at risk. Wild populations of Asian small-clawed and smooth-coated otters have declined by more than 30% in the last 30 years.
This illegal practice is much more widespread and crueler than you may think. World Animal Protection investigators have discovered that hunters who seek out otter cubs typically kill their protective parents in the process. In other cases, breeders tear weeks-old cubs from their parents and bottle feed them to make them 'tame'.
There is no right way to capture and trade otters, or any wildlife. We must stop the global wildlife trade now.
There is a growing illegal trade of wild Asian otters being fuelled by the rise of the “otter craze” in Indonesia and Japan: Otter cafes and the desire for images of pet otters on social media are driving wild otters are being hunted and trafficked out of existence to satisfy growing international demand.
At this very moment, at least 24,000 bears are being caged and farmed for their bile across Asia - in China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Lao PDR and South Korea.
Tragically, these bears are forced to live and suffer in devastating conditions so that their bile can be extracted for traditional medicine products.
This crue, inhumane practice must be stopped. It puts both Asian bear and human populations at risk. Many of the conditions created by this practice are ripe for zoonotic disease transmission. Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that can spread from animals to humans. Collectively, they are responsible for over 2 billion cases of human illness and over 2 million human deaths each year.
There is no humane way to harvest bear bile. Their bile is extracted through a process that leads to immeasurable suffering, or they are killed for their gallbladder. Bears are kept in entirely unsuitable and poor captive conditions.
Bile is harvested from bears and then traded around the world. In China, the cruel bear farming industry is actually legal. But just because it is legal, it doesn't mean it is humane or safe.
The demand this industry stimulates risks encouraging the illegal trade and poaching of bears in countries outside of China to meet demand.
We must act now to stop the global wildlife trade. It is cruel to bears, and it puts human lives at risk.
As a species, pangolins have gained attention in recent years as an icon of the illegal, global wildlife trade.
In fact, pangolins are often reported to be the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal.
Several recent investigations pose the question: did the consumer demand for pangolins spark our current global health crisis?
Across the world, and throughout Asia, wild animals are being taken from the wild, or bred in captivity, to be used in the tourism entertainment industry. They will suffer at every stage of this inherently cruel process and throughout their lives in captivity.
Thailand has by far the highest numbers of elephants used in tourism. Tourism was originally an alternative income source for elephant owners who previously worked their elephants in logging camps. With growing tourist numbers and increasing profits, tourism is the primary employment for elephants – many of which were born after the logging ban in 1989 and made to work in the tourism industry ever since.
Our 2020 report “Elephants. Not Commodities” equates the value of an elephant to up to US$50,000. With such a price tag on the head of an endangered animal as a legal commodity, it raises serious conservation concerns and is a strong incentive for people to capture wild elephants or breed them for further profit-making into a captive environment that can never meet their needs.
Elephants are wild animals – not entertainment commodities. They need our protection to stay in the wild where they belong.
Photos from an Indonesian market show the heartbreaking reality of the exotic pet trade, where bats, otters, exotic birds and other animals are caged and sold alongside groceries.
Animals that are sold at markets like this one have suffered horrendous conditions before they even get there.
You now know that the global wildlife trade is much bigger and much more dangerous than you thought it was. You know that for many species remaining wild populations are being driven to extinction. You know that millions of animals are suffering every single day. You know that the conditions these animals are forced to endure are rife for disease. You know that diseases can be transferred between wildlife and humans. And as of this year, you know how truly devastating a new disease can be when it spreads through every community on the planet.
You can help stop the next pandemic by taking action today. Please sign the petition now so we can deliver it to the G20 summit in Saudi Arabia this November. Sign it and tell the world's leaders that you demand an end to the global wildlife trade before it's too late.