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Report: Wildlife Trafficking Jeopardizes Vulnerable Species

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Monday, December 21, 2020   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A new report calls for a crackdown on the booming illegal wildlife trade - activity that's been linked most recently to the spread of COVID-19.

The Endangered Species Coalition's 2020 top 10 list of trafficked animals includes the pangolin, a mammal sold at the live-animal market where COVID-19 is thought to have made the jump to humans. Jeanne Dodds, creative engagement director at the Endangered Species Coalition, said this illicit trade harms both wildlife and people.

"These species have been extracted from the wild by humans," Dodds said. "So any transmission of virus is a human-caused problem; it's not a wildlife problem."

Some other species on the list include the scalloped hammerhead shark, diamondback terrapin, the tiger and the yellow-headed parrot - as well as the tokay gecko, pinto abalone and rufous hummingbird. A couple of plants also made the list - the saguaro cactus and venus flytrap.

Dodds said over the past 10 years, authorities have discovered an underground market for hummingbirds, which are trapped and killed in some cultures to make love charms.

"They're perceived to confer the ability to attract romantic attention," she said. "So, they're often stuffed and filled with some different types of herbs, and are given spells that are said over them. And then, they're sold illegally on the black market in states like California."

Andrea Jones, director of conservation for Audubon California, said the rufous hummingbird population declined 62% from 1966 to 2014 - and multiple factors are to blame.

"It's got a host of different threats and a lot of those are related to development pressure - you know, loss of habitat - and also to climate change," Jones said.

The coalition would like to see Congress take up the bipartisan Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2020, which would prohibit the sale of live, wild animals for food.

Disclosure: Endangered Species Coalition contributes to our fund for reporting on Animal Welfare, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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