‘Massive increase’ in illegal wildlife trade

‘Massive increase’ in illegal wildlife trade

The Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital spokesperson Wendy Willson says there has been a massive increase in the illegal pet trade

‘Massive increase’ in illegal wildlife trade
Facebook: Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital

This follows the escaped female tiger Sheba from her enclosure near Walkerville in Midvaal.

The tiger attacked a man and killed several domestic animals before being found and euthanised.

Willson says they have noticed an increase in the illegal trading of different species over the past two years.

"A percentage of animals that come in are from Gauteng, but we do get animals from all over the country. We have noticed over the last few years that there has been a steady increase in this illegal pet trade and animals coming in from the illegal pet trade, but in the last two years, there has been definitely a high increase across the board with a lot of species.

"We have seen an increase in the number of different species and that could be anything from reptiles and mammals."

The most concerning is the very steep rise in trading the indigenous reptiles whereas we will have very few Southern African pythons coming in from a trade four years ago, we have seen a drastic rise in South African pythons coming off illegal ownership, which is very concerning. Chameleons, tortoises and all the lizard species have had a sharp increase."

Many individuals and collectors want to own wildlife simply to boost their ego, says Willson.

"The impact these ‘ego buys’ are having on our natural habitat is often substantial, and it continues to fuel the already rampant illegal wild animal trade. 

READ: NSPCA mulling legal action against Sheba's owners

"Add to this the fact that the costs to rescue, treat, re-wild and release an indigenous wild animal who has fallen victim to the wild animal trade are massive. The damage caused by this trade affects both humans and animals, as we are intrinsically linked to one another."

“It is imperative to remember that these wild animals kept as pets are being kept in unnatural habitats. No matter how good the conditions, the cage, or the overall input into that wild animal’s captivity, it is still impossible to meet even the basic ‘five freedoms of animal welfare’ for that animal.

“Very little is being done from a legislative point of view to prevent tragedies such as what happened with Sheba from happening again. These wild animals that are being kept as pets are set up for failure, but we are all horrified when the animals act out their natural behaviour,” adds Willson

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