Australia’s reptile black market poses ‘serious risk’

Canberra, Nov 18 (IANS) Australia’s “thriving” black market for venomous snakes and other illegal reptiles poses a “serious risk” to native wildlife as well as humans, a study has found.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide used modelling to determine the likelihood of an illegal reptile species establishing itself in the local environment, and found that one in five “alien species” would successfully settle if accidentally or purposefully released, something PhD candidate Pablo Garcia-Diaz described as a serious risk to humans and local fauna.

“There is a thriving black market in reptiles in Australia and this illegal trade represents a serious challenge and risk to human and wildlife well-being,” Garcia-Diaz said on Friday.

Researchers found that of the 28 species of illegal reptiles seized by the Victorian government between 1999 and 2012, one in five could have successfully established themselves in the wild, with ten of the 28 species being venomous snakes, Xinhua news agency reported.

Project leader associate professor Phill Cassey said any introduced species which manages to establish itself in the wild could wipe out local reptiles, marsupials and birds.

“Illegal wildlife trade is a major threat to biodiversity worldwide,” Cassey said on Friday.

“In the regions where they are being introduced, the illegal trade represents a likely source of new alien species to disrupt the local ecosystems and, in the case of venomous snakes, pose a potential threat to humans.”