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Open AccessArticle

Risky Business: Live Non-CITES Wildlife UK Imports and the Potential for Infectious Diseases

1
World Animal Protection, 222 Gray’s Inn Rd., London WC1X 8HB, UK
2
Ecology & Environment Research Centre, Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester M1 5GB, UK
3
Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, Recanati-Kaplan Centre, University of Oxford, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney, Abingdon OX13 5QL, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1632; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091632
Received: 5 August 2020 / Revised: 27 August 2020 / Accepted: 7 September 2020 / Published: 11 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pets, People and Policies)
The UK imports wild animals for commercial purposes from countries all across the world. We analyse a database of wildlife records from the UK’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to summarise the volume and variety of non-CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) listed wild animal imports over a recent 5-year period (2014–2018). We found that over 48 million individual animals were imported into the UK from 90 countries across nine global regions from 2014–2018. In terms of volume (semi-domesticated pigeons and game birds aside), amphibians were the most commonly imported group (73%), followed by reptiles (17%), mammals (4%), and birds (3%). The highest number of import records came from Europe and Africa, but the largest volume of animals came from North America and Asia. We review the potential for infectious diseases emerging from these vast and varied wildlife imports and discuss the potential threats they pose to public health. We also draw attention to an observed current lack of detail in the APHA database and suggest that better record keeping and reporting could help prevent and manage the introduction of infectious diseases.
International wildlife trade is recognised as a major transmission pathway for the movement of pathogenic organisms around the world. The UK is an active consumer of non-native live wild animals and is therefore subject to the risks posed by pathogen pollution from imported wildlife. Here, we characterise a key yet overlooked portion of the UK wildlife import market. We evaluate the trade in live non-CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) wild terrestrial animals entering the UK over a 5-year period using data reported by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Between 2014 and 2018, over 48 million individual animals, across five taxonomic classes and 24 taxonomic orders, were imported into the UK from 90 countries across nine global regions. The largest volumes of wild animals were imported from North America and Asia, and most of the import records were from Europe and Africa. Excluding Columbiformes (pigeons) and Galliformes (‘game birds’), amphibians were the most imported taxonomic class (73%), followed by reptiles (17%), mammals (4%), birds (3%), and arachnids (<1%). The records described herein provide insight into the scope and scale of non-CITES listed wildlife imported in to the UK. We describe the potential for pathogen pollution from these vast and varied wildlife imports and highlight the potential threats they pose to public health. We also draw attention to the lack of detail in the UK wildlife import records, which limits its ability to help prevent and manage introduced infectious diseases. We recommend that improved record keeping and reporting could prove beneficial in this regard. View Full-Text
Keywords: human health; outbreaks; pandemics; wildlife trade; zoonotic disease; pet; exotic pet human health; outbreaks; pandemics; wildlife trade; zoonotic disease; pet; exotic pet
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Green, J.; Coulthard, E.; Norrey, J.; Megson, D.; D’Cruze, N. Risky Business: Live Non-CITES Wildlife UK Imports and the Potential for Infectious Diseases. Animals 2020, 10, 1632.

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