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© 2018 Zoonotic diseases cause millions of deaths every year. Diseases such as Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and avian influenza cause economic losses at the global level and jeopardize diplomatic relations between countries. As wildlife are the source of at least 70% of all emerging diseases and given the on-going concerns associated with wildlife trade as a disease transmission mechanism, we provide a ‘global snapshot’ of the legal trade in live wild animals and take stock of the potential health risks that it poses to global human health. Our analysis showed that 11,569,796 individual live wild animals, representing 1316 different species were exported from 189 different countries between 2012 and 2016. China was the largest exporter of live mammals (with 98,979 animals representing 58.7% of global trade). Nicaragua was the largest exporter of live amphibians (with 122,592 animals representing 53.8% of global trade). South Africa was the largest exporter of live birds (with 889,607 animals representing 39.2% of global trade). Peru was the largest exporter of live reptiles (with 1,675,490 animals representing 18.8% of global trade). Our analysis showed that mostly the USA and other high-income countries, the largest importers, drive the live animal trade. High-income countries and not the countries where wildlife diseases and pathogens are more likely to occur reported almost all of the disease reports to the World Organisation for Animal Health. Based on our findings, we discuss how maximising trade bans; working on human behaviour change and improving regulatory efforts to improve surveillance will decrease the risk of future pandemics, epidemics and outbreaks.

Original publication




Journal article


Global Ecology and Conservation

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