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Project September 10, 2017

Exotic Pets in China Fueling Biodiversity Loss

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Wei Zheng, aged 31, and his Spiny Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx princeps), in a park in central Beijing. Endemic to the horn of Africa, this species of lizard is normally found in the rocky ecosystems of Somalia. Many species of this type of lizard are now vulnerable or threatened in the region. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2017.
Wei Zheng, aged 31, and his Spiny Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx princeps), in a park in central Beijing. Endemic to the horn of Africa, this species of lizard is normally found in the rocky ecosystems of Somalia. Many species of this type of lizard are now vulnerable or threatened in the region. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2017.

It is estimated that up to one million people own exotic pets in China.

These pets are defined as non-traditional ones, such as snakes, monkeys, crocodiles, spiders, and tropical birds that are sourced from threatened ecosystems across the world, mainly to be displayed in the homes of China's expanding and more affluent middle classes.

As this sector of society continues to grow, the rise in pet ownership has risen sharply and many young Chinese are now turning to exotic pet ownership as a way to display their individuality and wealth.

The trade in these animals has been directly linked to species loss in some of the world's most threatened ecosystems, as well as contributing to a rapid rise in invasive species.

The global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to generate hundred of millions of dollars annually, although exact figures are hard to come by.

What is known is that the trafficking of animals is seeing a global spike in occurrence, leading to many species becoming increasingly threatened and significantly contributing to the current worldwide biodiversity extinction crisis.

Due to the scale of exotic pet ownership in China, it is a significant environmental issue as more affluent consumers turn to these types of animals as pets, fuelling the destruction and damage to ecosystems across the world.

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