Assessing the Impacts of Global Wildlife Trade
Pathogen pollution is the human mediated introduction of a pathogen to a new host species, population or geographic region. At the advent of a century characterized by the rapid breakdown of old barriers between people and nature, pathogen pollution and the continued emergence of infectious diseases are more important than ever. The introduction of non-native species around the world, both accidental and intentional, is a significant source of pathogen pollution. There are many pathways by which humans facilitate worldwide species invasions, but the global trade in wildlife is arguably of greatest concern.
Global wildlife trade is enormous. Over half a million shipments containing >1.68 billion live animals were traded by the U.S. alone between 2000 and 2006. Seventy-nine percent of shipments were imports containing <1.4 billion live animals. 92% of these were designated for commercial purposes (largely pet trade) and ~80% contained animals from wild populations.
Global wildlife trade has facilitated the introduction of species to new regions, where they compete with native species for resources, alter ecosystems, damage infrastructure and destroy crops. It has also led to the introduction of pathogens that threaten public health, agricultural production and biodiversity.
Experts at the EcoHealth Alliance are conducting on the ground science, in collaboration with government and industry, to reduce the risks of wildlife trade.
Ongoing projects include:
- Studying disease risk as the human-wildlife interface in Southeast Asia - a future hotspot for emerging zoonoses
- Working with industry to track the spread of pathogenic bacteria in the pet reptile and aquarium fish trade
- Studying the bullfrog trade as a contributing factor in the global distribution of chytridiomycosis
- Developing socio-economic models to identify the most cost effective means of preventing disease emergence through continued wildlife importation to the U.S.
- Modeling the spread of pathogens through trade and travel networks to predict emergence
Our program goals are:
- Characterizing the scope and scale of global wildlife trade using international trade databases
- Identifying the disease risks wildlife trade species pose to humans, livestock and native biota
- Working directly with industry professionals to study host-pathogen dynamics in trade
- Using the best available scientific evidence to make policy recommendations to reduce the risks of disease emergence through wildlife trade
Senior Research Fellow
BS, Applied Math and Biology
PhD, Biological Sciences
President & Disease Ecologist
Associate Vice President
DVM, MPH, cert. International Veterinary Medicine
Consulting Senior Scientist
PhD, Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology
Consulting Research Scientist
BS, Biological Anthropology and Spanish
MS, Conservation Biology
Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are a significant burden on global economies and public health. Their emergence is thought to be driven largely by socio-economic, environmental and ecological factors, but no comparative study has explicitly analyzed these linkages to understand global temporal and spatial patterns of EIDs.