Wildlife trade is a key driver of species extinctions and biodiversity loss around the globe, estimated to be worth a few 100 billion dollars a year. The illegal part of the wildlife trade is considered to be the world’s fourth largest illicit trade, after narcotics, human trafficking and trade in counterfeit goods. A large bulk of the trade takes place in Asia, with the demands of the East and Southeast Asian consumer markets pulling in species from all corners of the world. Wildlife consumption includes uses for meat, traditional and folk medicine, and for live animals for caged display (“pets”). A snaring crisis is currently defaunating vast swaths of forest in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos, putting terrestrial wild animals at risk of extinction while increasing the potential for diseases to spread between wild and domestic animals, and between animals and people.
In order to document the extent of this trade, we have added a Species in Trade observation field which we request iNaturalist users to tag observations when live or dead species are observed for sale in market locations or in other places throughout SE Asia. Images tagged with this observation field will then be added to the traditional project Species in Trade (managed by WWF Hong Kong and WWF Greater Mekong). Alongside this, we have a Wildlife Trade & Markets umbrella project which is currently based on key locations where we know the trade is occurring (with specific focus on reptiles, mammals and birds), but can grow to include other locations of trade from additional observations tagged with the “Species in Trade” field.