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

Green, Jennah and Coulthard, Emma and Norrey, John and Megson, David and D’Cruze, Neil (2020) Risky Business: Live Non-CITES Wildlife UK Imports and the Potential for Infectious Diseases. Animals, 10 (9). p. 1632.

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Abstract

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.

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