Risks associated with the global demand for novel exotic pets: A new and emerging trade in snakehead fish (Channa spp.) from India
Harrington LA., Mookerjee A., Kalita M., Saikia A., Macdonald DW., D'Cruze N.
Ornamental fish keeping is a popular hobby worldwide, supporting a significant global aquarium industry. Using export records of live snakeheads (Channa spp.) from India, we show a six-fold increase in the numbers of these (wild-sourced, freshwater) species exported worldwide between 2014 and 2019, driven by an increase in exports from West Bengal to China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. We highlight issues associated with exploitation of a poorly-known taxonomic group (in this case, the genus Channa), species that have restricted ranges, are rare, recently described, and difficult for non-experts to distinguish from others, and the risks associated with global transport of a potentially invasive species. We outline knowledge gaps relevant to national-level management; more broadly, we suggest a fundamental change of approach whereby traders of ‘luxury’ wildlife products (e.g. exotic pets) are required to demonstrate that trade is sustainable and safe, rather than conservationists to demonstrate that it is not.