Far East goes wild for live animals from SA
From parrots to tigers, South Africa tops the list of legal wildlife exports, an analysis of trade data reveals
South Africa is the largest legal exporter of living wild animals, birds and plants from Africa to Asia.
A new analysis of wildlife trade data published on Tuesday suggests that South Africa legally exported nearly a quarter of a million live birds, more than 8,000 live mammals and about 54,000 plant species over the past decade to countries in the Far East.
The analysis excludes the thousands of rhino horns, elephant tusks and other wildlife products that are exported illegally to the Far East – but does include a wide variety of less publicised legal exports such as scorpions, pythons and seahorses from West Africa, tons of hippo tusks from Tanzania or seal penises/genitalia from Namibia.Compiled by Willow Outhwaite and Lauren Brown on behalf of the global wildlife trafficking monitoring group TRAFFIC, the analysis is based on wildlife trading records from 2006- 2015, with some more limited data for the past two years.
Records suggest that South Africa exported more than 40,000 African grey parrots and more than 35,000 sun parakeets to Asia over this period for the pet trade.
Neither of these birds are native to this country, but TRAFFIC says South Africa has a well-established captive-breeding industry that covers a wide range of species, both native and non-native.The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) recently announced tougher trade restrictions that require all local breeders of African grey parrots to register with the convention if they wish to continue exporting these birds commercially.
South Africa was also a significant exporter of captive-bred crocodile meat and skins, mostly destined for Hong Kong.
The data is based on publicly available import and export records and trade permits from Cites, which aims to regulate global wildlife trading.
At a continent-wide level, the TRAFFIC report estimates that more than 1.3 million animals, more than 1.5 million skins and more than two million kilograms of meat from listed CITES wildlife species were exported over the past nine yearsIn recent years, the focus on wildlife trade from Africa has centred on the illegal trade and the continuing onslaught on iconic species such as elephants and rhinos, with much less attention given to the legal wildlife trade in many other species of fauna and flora.
TRAFFIC spokesman Dr Richard Thomas says the new report aims to shed light on legal trade trends, the diversity of species and countries involved, and new patterns emerging.
It says that while commercial killing of Cape fur seals was banned in South Africa from 1990, Namibia exported more than 100,000 seal skins to Southeast Asia over the past decade.
“There is substantial trade in other products derived from seals and it has been reported that the most profitable part of the seal is the genitalia, which are supplied to the aphrodisiac market. China and Hong dominated the market for Cape fur seals and were the only importers of genitalia, of which Hong Kong was found to import the most.”Speaking at a World Wildlife Day awareness event at the weekend, senior officials of the Department of Environmental Affairs said 540 captive-bred lions were hunted domestically during 2015. Of these, 440 were killed in North West.
At least 20 tigers were also shipped from South Africa to a zoo in Vietnam last month.
On average, about 300 wildlife-related shipments passed through Oliver Tambo International Airport each month.
South African wildlife inspectors endorsed 4,200 Cites permits last year and, on average, examined more than 80 wildlife import/export consignments each month. They also endorsed a large number export permits involving about 1,000 live birds each month.