PETALING JAYA: It’s so easy – and even legal – to own exotic animals. And this is fuelling the global illegal wildlife trade.
This is because the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permits can be and are often falsified.
In Malaysia, traders who wish to sell exotic animals and individuals who want to buy them need to have the CITES permit for each one they want to sell or keep.
Traffic South-east Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said the existence of fake permits, which state that the animals were bred in captivity when they were actuality taken from the wild, was a “long-standing issue”.
“Wildlife is often taken illegally from the wild and laundered into the global market via captive-breeding businesses.
“The animals are exported with paperwork falsely declaring them as captive-bred,” said John.
She said the responsibility was with potential buyers to check whether the exotic animal they wanted to buy was indeed captive-bred.
“Keeping exotic pets, especially those sourced from the wild, may contribute to the decline of a species in the wild.
“If in doubt, do not buy,” she said.
She added that the Government needed to ensure that exotic animals, such as the Indian Star tortoise recently seized in the country from an illegal wildlife trafficking ring, were actually bred in captivity.
“We strongly urge governments to consult with experts before allowing the import, to look into the likelihood of the species in question actually originating from a breeding operation,” she said.
Wildlife Alliance Science and Global Development director Dr Thomas Gray said the exotic pet trade, even if legal, contributed to animal poaching from the wild.
“In many circumstances, it is used to launder animals caught in the wild as ‘commercially bred’.
“Many CITES permits are fake as it is physically impossible for all the ‘captive bred’ reptiles traded globally to come from genuine and well-managed captive facilities,” said Gray.
He said the ownership of exotic animals as pets should be discouraged.
Referring to two types of tortoises – red-footed and pancake – that were seen being sold in two exotic pet shops here, Gray said both of types of tortoises were CITES-listed species whose populations in the wild have been seriously impacted by the exotic pet trade.
“Neither species is suitable as pets,” he said.
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