Fighting the Illegal Wildlife Trade in the UK

I have always loved primates. I grew up watching old re-runs of Monkey Business, and taking trips to ZSL London Zoo and Monkey World in Dorset. I adopted orangutans and chimps and when I didn’t get a high enough grade to get into A Level Biology, it was time to find a new dream. That didn’t stop my love for primates though.

Recently, I’ve been looking into doing some conservation projects next year. I want to make a difference, and help, and there is no better place to start than at home. The pet trade is the UK is confusing and not always morally sound, and small primates such as marmosets are a big part of this trade. Marmosets are not suitable as pets for multiple reasons. They live in large social groups, and they need interaction and stimulation, otherwise they get stressed and then ill. They’re kept as pets as they are small and cute, but like all primates they have complex needs which cannot be met in a family home situation. Technically it is legal to own marmosets, however, they are not really suitable to be pets, and this leads to mistreatment and illness. Other monkeys such as capuchins legally cannot be bought as pets, but can be obtained if the owner has a permit for ‘personal use’, which, while it is not legal to use for pets, is anyway. Often local councils do not check up on these permits, so these animals cannot be rescued, meaning these animals are trapped.

Even worse, when these cases go to court, the sentences passed do not usually match up to the severity of the crimes. Up to 74% of cases of wildlife trade offences end up not going to prison, with 58% of these cases just receiving fines. Even more insultingly, 70% of these fines ended up being less than the value of the animal used. This is another issue with the illegal UK pet trade. The lack of punishments does not help alleviate the trade and it does not disincentivize the trade. As long as the wildlife trade offences are not punished as severely as needed, the illegal pet trade will still exist.

Worldwide, the illegal wildlife trade situation is hitting a crisis. In the last century, the amount of tigers in the wild is estimated to have dropped by up to 97%. In 2015, 1 rhino was being killed every 8 hours. We are hitting a crisis point and if we don’t do something serious soon, these amazing animals will be gone, damaging eco-systems and our world rapidly.

I’m not quite sure how I can help right now, apart from financially. However, I feel that I physically need to do something. I’ve left some links at the end of this post about some of the resources I’ve used writing this post, and hopefully you will be inspired to look through these links. I want to help. Don’t you?

Links:

The World Wide Fund for Nature
WWF-Sentencing Wildlife Trade Offences
ZSL London Zoo Conservation
RSPCA-Primates as Pets
RSPCA-Real Life Stories of Primates as Pets
Monkey World

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