NEW YORK (May 21, 2009)—Commercial wildlife farms in Southeast Asia—where rare snakes, turtles, crocodiles, monkeys, and other species are bred and raised in captivity for the purpose of producing meat and wildlife products—do not alleviate the exploitation of populations in the wild.
In fact, wildlife farms make the problem worse, according to a recent joint study by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Vietnam’s Forest Protection Department. The study found that commercial wildlife farms actually deplete wild populations and contribute to illegal wildlife trade.
Rather than protecting wild populations, 42 percent of the 78 farms surveyed in Vietnam were regularly bringing animals in from the wild. And 50 percent of the farms reported that their founder populations were taken from the wild or produced from a combination of wild and farm stock. Researchers also found links between several farms and the illegal wildlife trade, with farm owners admitting to illegally transport wildlife to the Chinese border for export into Chinese markets. Other illegal practices uncovered included the purchase of farm stock from commercial hunters, and unlicensed transport and importation of wildlife and wildlife products.
“Instead of enhancing conservation, commercial wildlife farms actually threaten wild populations,” said Dr. Elizabeth L. Bennett, Director of WCS’s Hunting and Wildlife Trade program, “From the report’s analysis it appears the negative impacts of wildlife farms on wild populations vastly outweigh any advantages.”
Even farms raising fast-growing species with high-reproductive rates negatively impact conservation efforts through the continued importation of wild animals, according to the study. And 20 percent of wildlife farm owners interviewed reported escapes of dangerous animals (crocodiles, cobras, pythons, etc.), hybridized animals (soft-shelled turtles), and animals outside of their natural range.
With respect to the needs of local communities, the study concluded that commercial wildlife farms do not reduce the reliance of rural communities on wild animal populations for protein or contribute to food security, but rather supply luxury items to urban consumers.
The study focused on wildlife farms located in 12 provinces in northern, central, and southern Vietnam. Farm owners were interviewed by study authors, who documented 22 farmed species, including six globally threatened species and five species listed on Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which prohibits all international commercial trade in Appendix I species. CITES is an international agreement between governments, formed to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
In light of the study’s findings, the report’s authors recommend prohibiting farms from holding both nationally-protected species and Globally-threatened species appearing on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species; applying strict penalties to farm owners in violation of wildlife protection laws; and transferring to farm owners the burden of proving the source of animals kept on wildlife farms.
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit: www.wcs.org
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