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Exploited for pets: the harvest and trade of amphibians and reptiles from Indonesian New Guinea

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Abstract

Over-exploitation of wildlife is a significant threat to global biodiversity, but addressing the sustainability of harvests can be difficult when trade is conducted illegally. The wildlife trade is driven chiefly by consumer demand, largely in developed nations (but increasingly in Asia), and more species are traded to meet international demand for pets than for any other purpose. We surveyed traders of amphibians and reptiles in the Indonesian provinces of Maluku, West Papua and Papua between September 2010 and April 2011. We recorded 5,370 individuals representing 52 species collected solely for the pet trade. At least 44 % were either fully protected or had not been allocated a harvest quota, making their harvest and trade illegal. Approximately half were listed within the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Trade operates via a complex chain, with hunters receiving little income compared to middlemen and exporters. Examination of Indonesian harvest quotas for amphibians and reptiles suggests limited knowledge of species distributions, with quotas often set for species in provinces where they do not occur. Illegal trade is due, partly, to an inadequate understanding of the species being traded and is facilitated by poor monitoring and enforcement at key trade hubs. As a first step to combatting illegal trade, and to better understand the effects of harvest on wild populations, we recommend the need for increased monitoring and enforcement, improving the knowledge base of species traded and educating consumers about the effects their demand for pets has on these species.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Indonesian traders and villagers who accommodated us over the course of our studies. Thanks also to A. Allison and F. Kraus for their assistance in identifying specimens from photographs and C. Shepherd and M. Auliya for comments that improved an earlier version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Daniel J. D. Natusch.

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Natusch, D.J.D., Lyons, J.A. Exploited for pets: the harvest and trade of amphibians and reptiles from Indonesian New Guinea. Biodivers Conserv 21, 2899–2911 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-012-0345-8

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