Traded under the radar: poor documentation of trade in nationally-protected non-CITES species can cause fraudulent trade to go undetected
Documentation of international trade in non-CITES species is generally poor. As a result, illegal trade in nationally-protected non-CITES species is often hard to detect. To show that such illicit trade nevertheless occurs, this study has analysed import and export records of the Giant Blue-tongued Skink Tiliqua gigas for the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) between 1999 and 2015. EU trade data for T. gigas was obtained from the UNEP-WCMCM CITES Trade Database. Trade data for the US was extracted from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS). We observed a sudden shift in source codes (from wild-caught to captive-bred) coinciding with legislative changes, which has been indicative of laundering practices in the past. In the US, no less than 45% of all imported T. gigas was declared as wild-caught, constituting a direct violation of Indonesia’s national laws and the US Lacey Act. The keeping of trade records is subjected to the willingness of individual countries, yet unwillingness to collect such data can severely threaten species when over-exploitation or laundering practices remain undetected. A CITES Appendix III-listing, obligating participating countries to maintain trade records, would facilitate improved detection and monitoring of illegal trade in nationally-protected species.
KeywordsLaundering Tiliqua gigas Nationally-protected Lacey Act
The authors thank a donor that wishes to remain anonymous for its support of this project. Thanks also go to Chris Shepherd, Lalita Gomez and Phill Cassey for constructive and useful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
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