EcoHealth Alliance Releases Most Comprehensive Database of U.S. Animal Imports in History

NEW YORK – January 16, 2020 – The United States imported more than 3.2 billion live animals over a 15-year period, according to a massive database published in its entirety for the first time today. Compiled by scientists at EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit working at the intersection of animal, environmental, and human health on a global scale, the dataset presents the most comprehensive picture of wildlife and animal product imports into the U.S. to date.

The data, published by the journal Scientific Data, originated in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) that tracks U.S. imports and exports of live organisms and wildlife products. While these reports are legally mandated, they have never before been published in full. EcoHealth Alliance obtained the records through the Freedom of Information Act and presents the full scope of legal wildlife trade between the years of 2000 and 2014 here.

"Wildlife trade not only threatens biodiversity, but can also introduce invasive species and potentially harmful pathogens to new populations," EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak said. Dr. Daszak is also a co-author of the Scientific Data paper. "Pathogens as significant as Ebola and monkeypox viruses have entered the U.S. this way and wildlife trade has been linked to global pandemics like bird flu and SARS."

Though its potential harm is well documented, the actual pathways through which wildlife and animal products enter the United States are not well understood, due in part to differing regulations and monitoring efforts between nations. EcoHealth Alliance’s dataset is searchable by species, reported value in U.S. dollars, country of origin, date of shipment, port of entry, importer, and more.

"Without a better understanding of global wildlife trade networks, it’s impossible for us to make any necessary improvements to protect not only the species being traded, but also the people trading them," EcoHealth Alliance Research Fellow and lead author Dr. Evan Eskew said. "My hope is this dataset will lend itself to a variety of further research aimed at protecting ecosystems, animal welfare, and public health."

The full dataset and its associated paper are available online, accessible by anyone.

"In order to better understand this data, it’s going to need to be analyzed," Daszak said. "This can now be done by anyone; this equity of access was the guiding principle behind this project in the first place."

Some of the most common reasons for importation listed within the given 15-year period were the pet trade, scientific research, and the fashion industry.

About EcoHealth Alliance:
Building on 45 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is the premier nonprofit organization committed to a One Health approach to track the migration of deadly viruses from animals into humans. EcoHealth Alliance research has led to major breakthroughs on the origins and spread of new and emerging diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS, and Nipah virus. EcoHealth Alliance works globally in hotspot regions where the threat of outbreaks is highest. Through innovations in research, training, capacity building, and policy initiatives, we develop tools and interventions to prevent pandemics and promote conservation.
Press contact: Robert Kessler, (646) 868-4711 or kessler@ecohealthalliance.org.

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