Risky Business: Live Non-CITES Wildlife UK Imports and the Potential for Infectious Diseases
World Animal Protection, 222 Gray’s Inn Rd., London WC1X 8HB, UK
Ecology & Environment Research Centre, Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester M1 5GB, UK
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.
Received: 5 August 2020 / Revised: 27 August 2020 / Accepted: 7 September 2020 / Published: 11 September 2020
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.