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Protected species found on sale in Thai markets

By Colin Ricketts - 16 Jun 2011 13:22:1 GMT
Protected species found on sale in Thai markets

Endangered species from Madagascar are being sold in Thailand and exported by Thai dealers says TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

TRAFFIC surveyed sales for 15 days in Bangkok and eight of Thailand's provinces and found 591 Madagascan reptiles and amphibians available on sale.

TRAFFIC's largest cause for concern was over the large numbers of Madagascan chameleons for sale. TRAFFIC found 16 species represented among the 233 chameleons they found on sale in shops, markets and the homes of traders who sell on the internet. At least one species, the Antsingy Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia perarmataI), is protected by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which bans its sale.

It is legal to trade in some chameleon species from Madagascar but the reporters found that most --– around 78 percent --– that had been imported to Thailand were claimed to have been captive bred in Kazakhstan or re-exported from Lebanon. TRAFFIC says that records show that no chameleons have been imported into Kazakhstan. Lebanon is not a signatory of CITES and only 32 chameleons are reported to have entered the country.

"If large-scale captive-breeding operations of Madagascar's chameleons are indeed taking place in Kazakhstan, where did they source their breeding stock and why are many of the exports going via Lebanon, a country that is not a party to CITES?" asks Chris Shepherd, Deputy Director of TRAFFIC South-East Asia.

"Even at the highest theoretical hatching and survival rates, it is impossible for 32 chameleons to produce the thousands of offspring Thailand declared as imported from Lebanon in subsequent years, so how is the shortfall accounted for?" asks Shepherd.

Alongside chameleons TRAFFIC found more than 100 Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiate), dozens of Spider Tortoises (Pyxis arachnoids), and three Ploughshare Tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) - three of the world's rarest tortoise species. All classified by IUCN as Critically Endangered and their trade banned by CITES.

Crawford Allan, Regional Director, TRAFFIC North America warned western animal collectors to be wary of buying Madagascan fauna, even if the sellers claimed specimens were legally bred in captivity.

The Thai government does take action, and last week seized more than 800 protected reptiles at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, however, Traffic want them to do more, particularly as Thailand will host the next CITES conference in 2013.

Top Image Credit: © Als