Scientists have discovered an extensive trade of spiders, scorpions, and related species around the world. Many of these arachnids are threatened with unsustainable harvesting practices.
The peaks in interest for these animals were detected by the team.
The extent of the trade in these groups exceeds millions of individuals, according to a paper written by Benjamin Marshall and colleagues. The trade of some groups of animals is well known, but other classes are completely overlooked.
The researchers found 1,264 different species for sale. This is likely to be an underestimation, as they only searched through a subset of languages and didn't look at social media where trade is also known to take place.
Most of these species are not being traded by any regulatory body. Most reptiles being sold are listed as such on the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Law Enforcement Management Information System.
There was a single collector with 205 species of spider.
The captive tarantula is eating a worm. Bry Wark is a stock photographer.
A lack of regulations means that even un described species can be exported without oversight, as the team explains.
The large fuzzy tarantulas are highly sought after and may come as a surprise to arachnophobes. Animals like tarantulas have certain characteristics that make them more vulnerable, such as long lifespans.
Pets can help us to be better connected with the world beyond humans, and they also benefit our own health. The ones that are crawly.
Taking on the responsibility of caring for an animal requires a lot of work before you get them. If the trade of exotic animals is unregulated, you risk contributing to the extinction of the animal you value the most. It could be unintentionally causing the animal's death.
Many species of arachnids are desired for their unique characteristics, which means they are likely to be rarer.
The authors say that wildlife trade is a major driver of biodiversity loss.
It's difficult to regulate the trade of invertebrates as they are so easy to smuggle through regular postal services. They are not detected by thermal scans. There is even advice on how to mail baby spiderlings online.
There is still so much we do not know about these animals. We don't have the most basic details on them, like their life histories and their ecological roles. Some arachnid groups do not have a centralized database of species names.
Only 1 percent of the over 1 million described invertebrate species have been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Only 2 percent of the species Marshall and colleagues found for sale were listed on the CITES. This doesn't tell us much about how many species are being traded.
Many of the information they found was incorrect, with many species listed in places they are not actually native to.
Marshall et al. are in Communications Biology.
Marshall and team write that existing regulations in most countries don't provide enough safeguards for most species. They acknowledge that regulation of wild caught species may be difficult.
Lack of data on most species ranges makes it impossible to assess vulnerability and develop appropriate management policies.
They propose that those looking to acquire these animals should switch to certified breeding programs, which will provide them with minimal risk to wild populations. They think that the issues of species identification may be helped by the barcoding of feces samples.
Marshall and colleagues explain that unsustainable trade cannot provide stable economic gains in the long-term. This undermines future access to that same and other services which other species rely on.
Their right to exist should not be threatened by our desire to admire and preserve the curious, strange, and beautiful life on this planet.
Communication Biology published this research.