South America calls for international action on rare reptile smuggling at first anti-poaching conference

South American states are calling for an international response to end the smuggling of rare animals including reptiles, amphibians and parrots.

At the continent’s first Illegal Wildlife Trade anti-poaching conference in Lima, Peru, on Thursday, delegates will urge countries across the world to help fight the growing black market industry.

Reptile collectors in the US and Europe have an insatiable appetite for the brightly-coloured frogs from rainforests across from the Americas. 

Most under threat from this growing trade is the glass frog, popular with pet owners because of their translucent bellies that show their beating hearts. However, their population is being decimated to the point where scientists are afraid to publicise new glass frog species as it encourages illegal poachers to seek them out and steal them from their habitat.

Parrots are often taken from their habitats in South America and traded internationally. This has contributed to many species becoming endangered. The intelligent and social birds suffer in captivity, as those buying smuggled parrots rarely keep them in adequate enclosures, and they are mostly caged alone without their flock.

There was an effort to halt the smuggling of rare reptiles and amphibians earlier this year at the Convention on the Internatonal Trade of Endangered Species Conference, held in Geneva. Many rare animals are protected in their local countries, but international trade is legal, so once smuggled, they can be freely traded.

Delegates voted to ban the trade of various geckos threatened by the illegal pet trade, but did not vote for protection of glass frog species, after the EU opposed the motion.

International Environment Minister, Zac Goldsmith said: “The UK is a world-leader in wildlife conservation both at home and abroad. We have committed to doubling our spend on climate change and focusing much of the uplift on nature protection and restoration. We are seeing a global trend for people desiring exotic pets such as glass frogs, and we need to make sure this wildlife trade doesn’t drive further biodiversity loss and damage fragile ecosystems.

“I commend countries in the Americas working together to fight the Illegal Wildlife Trade. This First High-Level Conference was a commitment made at last years IWT conference here in London, and will help drive further firm action to tackle the Illegal Wildlife Trade to protect wild animals in South America.”  

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