Pet and Wildlife Trafficking: A Dark Truth About Wild Farms Exposed by UK Nonprofit

Published: 07 March 2024

Sulphur-crested CockatoosThere are cases where parrots and cockatoos are alleged to have been bred in the Solomon Islands, but there are no farms over there, the report states. (Photo: Grunter, Wikimedia, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

Wildlife “farming”, the term for breeding wild species in controlled environments, has been touted for helping protect both the animals and their often fragile ecosystems.

However, it hides some secrets, including a dark relationship with illegal species trafficking.

A new report published Monday by the non-profit organization World Animal Protection, entitled “Bred for Profit: The Truth about Global Wildlife Farming”, exposed the problems of this industry.

Parrots, lions, elephants and bears, to name a few, may be turned into decorations, luxury foods, fashion products or traditional medicine in South Asian countries such as China through wildlife farms across the world. They are also traded as pets and used as entertainment or tourist attractions.

Although proponents of this industry claim that it is good for wildlife populations, legal and well-regulated, research conducted by World Animal Protection tells a different story.

The report documents the mistreatment and suffering of the animals, as well as the negative effects that the industry has on wild populations. The farming may even be used as a cover for wildlife-related illicit activities by criminal groups, it notes.

According to the report, it is not always easy to distinguish between legal and illegal exploitation of wildlife and there is a complex relationship between the two.  For example, farms can act as "laundering sites" in which wild-caught animals destined for the pet industry are falsely claimed to be farm-raised to avoid legal restrictions on the commercial wildlife trade.

In Indonesia, nationally protected wildlife can be traded with a permit if the animals are captive-bred, allowing the misreporting of wild-caught animals and hastening their decline in the wild.

Also, wildlife farming regulations are neither sufficient nor effective, the report says. In countries with large wildlife farming industries, such as Vietnam, national policies have been criticized for being contradictory and poorly enforced.

The report calls for an end to the practice, noting that if it continues many species will be severely threatened and humans will be increasingly exposed to zoonotic diseases such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Said Nick Stewart, World Animal Protection’s wildlife campaign director,  “Whether it be for the pet industry, trophy hunting, entertainment, traditional medicine, decoration, or fashion – cruel wildlife farming must end now.    Wild animals have the right to a wild life.

“Governments, the private sector, and us as consumers must prioritize efforts to ensure that wildlife is protected in [its] natural habitats. The public must also be guarded against the very real threat of zoonotic diseases from wildlife farms.”