Home Sciences Illegal spider trade: an emerging and uncontrolled ecological problem

Illegal spider trade: an emerging and uncontrolled ecological problem


The illegal animal trade threatens the survival of countless species. Scientists have warned for years about the problems caused by this clandestine trade around the globe, since it threatens both the commercialized species and their associated ecosystems and, in addition, allows the spread of exotic animals. In recent years there has been a growth in illegal traffic of all kinds of spiders as exotic pets, which is causing a major ecological problem and remains out of control.

Tarantulas, spiders and scorpions are part of the more than 1,200 species of arachnids that have been traded or are currently traded around the world and 80% of them are not controlled. This is the conclusion of a study published in the journal Communications Biology in which he warns of the problems that this emerging market without regulation is generating. To reach their conclusions, Alice Hughes, a researcher at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, and her colleagues investigated the global trade in arachnids between the years 2000 and 2021.

The arachnid trade takes advantage of a wide legal loophole. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has only regulated the legal status of a small fraction of these species. An example of this is that, of the 52,060 known species of spiders, only 39 are regulated in the market.

In most cases, their state of vulnerability is also unknown, since Of the more than one million known invertebrate species, less than 1% had been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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But if there is something that worries researchers, it is the high percentage of these arachnids that are taken directly from their natural environment. According to reports, two-thirds of animals of all traded species were taken from the wild. The most popular, emperor scorpions, were captured in their natural environment on up to 77% of the occasions investigated. One million individuals were imported into the United States.

Only 1 in 10 animals survive

The latter could have negative impact on wild populations if harvests continue at current rate, as they could exceed the ecological limit. The threat to the survival of the species being trafficked is one of the consequences of illegal animal trafficking. To this is added the harsh transport conditions to which animals are subjected object of commercial traffic. In fact, only one in 10 survives the journey.

During the journey, they are introduced in PVC tubes (mostly birds), in double bottoms of suitcases, suffocated in passenger coats, tied by all their extremities in boxes or in leaky containers of all kinds. without receiving water or food for hundreds of kilometers by water, land or air.

Another consequence is the destruction of the habitat and the loss of biodiversity due to the alteration of the life cycles of the ecosystem. This problem is of such a caliber that it affects human society, since any natural change affects economic activities. Furthermore, by introducing wild species to other countries where they are not present, these animals can disrupt native wildlife, often becoming apex predators, or introducing diseases that other animals have never combated.

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Spain, gateway

Despite warnings from the scientific community and calls for stronger regulation, the illegal trade in species continues to grow each year to the point that It is considered the third largest organized crime sector in the world.. Spain is one of the hot spots and gateway for birds, reptiles and small apes from Africa and America.

According to a study published in the journal ‘Science’, 60% of wild animal species are sold clandestinely. In this sense, 18% of the vertebrate species that exist on our planet (representing 5,579 species) are already traded worldwide, although this type of traffic is prohibited in many cases.

It is not surprising, because despite all the damage it causes to animals and ecosystems, this is still a very profitable business. According to the United Nations, the trafficking of wild animals moves between 10,000 and 20,000 million euros a year. Fashion, pets, leisure and tourism and even medicine have found a place to take advantage of this black market.


Environment section contact: crisisclimatica@prensaiberica.es

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