Just when you thought humanity might finally be turning the corner and becoming better (well, except for Donald Trump), we get this disheartening news. Poachers around the world are reading scientific journals to find the locations where new species are discovered in order to capture and sell them to equally evil black market buyers.
The journal Zootaxa recently announced the discovery of two new species of large gecko but gave the location of there whereabouts as the very general location of southern China.
Due to the popularity of this genus as novelty pets, and recurring cases of scientific descriptions driving herpetofauna to near-extinction by commercial collectors, we do not disclose the collecting localities of these restricted-range species in this publication.
How bad is this problem? Zootaxa announced the discovery of a new leaf-tailed gecko (like the one pictured above) in Madagascar last summer and in less than four months the geckos were being sold in Europe. In 2013, a new light blue poison dart frog was discovered in Brazil and three months later was being offered for sale in Germany.
While the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature does not require the exact location of newly discovered species, many scientists disclose the information anyway out of pride, habit or lack of information on what poachers are doing. Also, money and violence talks and the poachers are know to bride or threaten locals until they divulge the exact locations of rare or newly discovered species.
Poaching affects many species but is especially acute for amphibians and reptiles because of their popularity as pets. According to one study, in just the past decade ten EU countries have reported the import of more than 20 million live reptiles.
Besides scientific journals hiding the locations of discoveries, the real solution would be regulations that restrict or stop animal imports, jail poachers and prosecute both sellers and buyers. Unfortunately, only 8% of the world’s 10,200 reptile species are regulated by the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species.
For those of you looking for the “mystery” in this story, here it is: Why do we do this? Will any of these changes happen? Will humans learn to appreciate creatures in the wild rather than in aquariums? Maybe Koko the sign language gorilla is right.