Pet Trade Introduces Diseases, Costs
Invasive species are putting major strains on our environment, our pocketbooks and our health, new studies suggest, and our nation's demand for exotic pets may be to blame.
The wild animal trade may even be upping our risk for diseases like the current outbreak of swine flu.
Between 2000 and 2006, the United States imported nearly 1.5 billion live animals from 190 countries, mostly for sale as pets, according to a paper published today in the journal Science. Eighty percent of those animals came from wild populations. And nearly 70 percent of them came from Southeast Asia, a known hotspot for emerging diseases that, like the swine flu, can jump from animals to people.
Once invasive species have escaped into the environment, they can cause a cascade of problems that are expensive to fix. In another paper, published last week in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, European researchers found that controlling an invasive species, can cost $10 million or more.
"That's what hits home," said Katherine Smith, a conservation biologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. "Money and disease."