By Liz Kimbrough
Demand for exotic pets is driving the illegal harvest and trade of herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) in Indonesian New Guinea, according to a recent study published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.
Between September 2010 and April 2011, Daniel Natusch and Jessica Lyons of the University of New South Wales surveyed traders of amphibians and reptiles in the Indonesian provinces of Maluku, West Papua and Papua.
The authors encountered a slew of species being exploited for trade including: the green python (Morelia viridis), boelens python (Morelia boeleni), frilled necked lizard (Clamydosaurus kingii), New Guinea snapping turtle (Elseya branderhorsti), blue tongue lizard (Tiliqua scincoides), the green tree frog (Litoria caerulea), and several species of monitor lizards (Varanus sp.).
According to the paper, they recorded, "5,370 individuals representing 52 species collected solely for the pet trade. At least 44 % were either fully protected or had not been allocated a harvest quota, making their harvest and trade illegal. Approximately half were listed within the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)."
CITES, which Indonesia became a party to in 1979, regulates international wildlife trade. Under CITES, certain species are assigned a harvest quota; a specific number of individuals that can be collected from the wild. Animals listed as "fully protected" or without an assigned harvest quota cannot be legally collected or traded.
The Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA) is responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of CITES regulations in Indonesia. Natusch and Lyons' findings suggest that there are some key gaps in PHKA’s enforcement.
"Illegal trade is due, partly, to an inadequate understanding of the species being traded and is facilitated by poor monitoring and enforcement at key trade hubs," they write.
A 2011 paper, also by Lyons and Natusch, focusing on the illegal laundering of green pythons asserted similar findings. A report submitted by Indonesia at the CITES Asian Snake Trade Workshop in 2011 claimed that there was no illegal trade in Indonesian snakes. However, Lyons and Natusch uncovered a different story—that breeding farms were being used to illegally launder wild caught snakes. More....