Study assails Asian wildlife farms

Commercial wildlife farms in south-east Asia deplete wildlife populations and contribute to illegal trade, according to a recent joint study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Vietnam’s forest protection department. On such farms, the report said, animals including rare snakes, turtles, crocodiles and monkeys are bred and raised in captivity for meat and wildlife products.

“Instead of enhancing conservation, commercial wildlife farms actually threaten wild populations,” according to Elizabeth L Bennett, director of WCS’s hunting and wildlife trade program. “From the report’s analysis, it appears the negative impacts of wildlife farms on wild populations vastly outweigh any advantages.”

Of the 78 farms surveyed in 12 Vietnamese provinces, 42% were regularly bringing in animals from the wild. Half reported that their founder populations were taken from the wild or produced from a combination of wild animals and farm stock. Researchers also found links between several farms and the illegal wildlife trade, with farm owners admitting they transported wildlife to the Chinese border for export into Chinese markets.

Even farms raising fast-growing species with high reproductive rates negatively impact conservation efforts through the continued importation of wild animals, according to the study. It further concluded that commercial wildlife farms do not reduce the reliance of rural communities on wild animal populations for protein or contribute to food security. Instead, they primarily supply luxury items to urban consumers.

The report’s authors recommend prohibiting farms from holding both nationally protected and globally threatened species, penalising farm owners who violate wildlife protection laws, and requiring farm owners to document the source of the animals they keep.

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