Conservation Implications of Illegal Bird Trade and Disease Risk in Peru
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Trade in wild-caught animals as pets is a global conservation and animal-welfare concern. Illegal and poorly-regulated legal wildlife trade can threaten biodiversity, spread infectious diseases, and result in considerable animal suffering and mortality. I used illegal wildlife trade in Peru, specifically native bird trade, as a case study to explore important aspects and consequences of the trade for domestic markets. With data collected from a five-year market survey and governmental seizure records, I applied a statistical modeling approach to investigate the influence of Peru’s legal export quota system on the country’s illegal domestic bird trade. I used an infectious-disease mathematical modeling approach to analyze how illegal harvest influenced disease dynamics in a wild parrot population. Finally, I used qualitative research methods to investigate the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their members’ philosophical perspectives toward wildlife in combating illegal trade. I found that Peru had a thriving illegal trade in native birds (mostly parrots) for domestic consumers; 150 species were recorded in markets and/or seizures with over 35,250 individuals offered for sale (2007–2011). Peru’s current legal export quota system did not influence avian abundance in markets, but historic export trade did. Because authorities frequently release confiscated birds without health evaluation, infectious pathogens may be introduced into wild populations. I determined that the hypothetical release of white-winged parakeets infected with Newcastle disease would provoke a disease outbreak with considerable mortality in a susceptible population. Higher rates of illegal harvest dampened the magnitude of the outbreak, but the combined effects of high harvest and disease-induced mortality may threaten population survival. According to interviewees, Peru’s government was considered lax in combating illegal wildlife trade and as such, many NGOs supplemented the government’s efforts. The five NGOs most dedicated to decreasing illegal wildlife-pet trade in Peru had strong, dual philosophical perspectives that prioritized both wildlife populations and individual wild animals. In conclusion, there is considerable avian trafficking for Peru’s domestic consumers that (1) is independent of Peru’s export market, (2) provides a mechanism to introduce harmful infectious diseases into wild population, and (3) is combated most by dual-perspective NGOs.
Daut, Elizabeth Frances (2015). Conservation Implications of Illegal Bird Trade and Disease Risk in Peru. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from