Wildlife Trade & Markets in S.E. Asia - iNaturalist Monitoring

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.

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Including plants in this I hope?

In my region (NE Vietnam) the local markets tend to have a lot of legally harvested ornamental and medicinal plants, not only animals in them.

For example these two observations are of orchids harvested illegally within the local national park, with the second one being an endangered species:

As a test I joined the project and added a couple of observations.

When I attempt to fill the observation field I get the following error message and am unable to add the observation to the project:

Failed to add to project Species in Trade
Submitter must be a curator of this project


Hi @earthknight,

Thanks for responding.

I’ve just checked and illegal trade in plants in SE Asia is something that is of general interest to us also. I’m not sure why you got an error message as your pictures DID get tagged with the ‘Species in Trade’ observation field.

While iNat user should be able to tag the observation field to any observation they may have taken or come across, only a couple of us will be able to add observations to the Species in Trade project. This is for our ‘quality control’ and we will do this by checking the observation field page regularly and adding observations manually.



Great, thanks (excellent user name, by the way).

We also often have images of wildlife caught in traps, confiscate, or being released back into the wild. These aren’t at markets, but they are “wildlife in trade”.

For example, this Asian Water Monitor was confiscated at one of the local harbors and we released it back into the wild.

All 4 of these Burmese Python observations are releases back into the wild from individuals that were either confiscated from poachers or had owners who wanted to get rid of them.

These 4 Small Toothed Ferret Badger observations are from individuals that were found in snares and released on site, taken back to check for injuries then released, or, in one case, died in the snare.

This Mainland Leopard Cat was confiscated from poachers, held until we were sure it was healthy and uninjured, then released.

And we have more observations like this in our project.

Should this type of observation be added as well?


Hi @earthknight.

Once again, thanks for responding. I just got clarification on your questions. :)

Yes, the examples you have mentioned, with the characteristics mentioned, are definitely something of interest to us. Below is a little summary which should give a better understanding of what we are after.

Wild animals and plants observed in any part of the trade supply chain, from source to end consumers - snared, legally or illegally hunted, captured or collected, confiscated during transportation, border crossings, or storage, and retail trade locations (markets, pet shops, roadside stalls, restaurants, etc), are included in this “Species in Trade” project.




I’ll go through and add relevant observations to the project then (making updates to the descriptions where necessary too).


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