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Zoonotic potential of international trade in CITES-listed species 2021


Zoonoses represent a major global health challenge. They are responsible for billions of cases of human illness and millions of deaths each year, and the fallout from zoonotic diseases has the potential to have profound economic and social impacts on human society. In this context, wildlife trade has been identified as one of the important potential pathways of zoonotic disease emergence, as well as an activity that plays a role in maintaining existing zoonoses in circulation. One of the avenues through which it has been suggested that the zoonotic risk of wildlife trade could be mitigated is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates a defined subset of wildlife trade worldwide. The first step to knowing whether there could be a meaningful role for CITES in mitigating zoonotic spill over is to gain a stronger understanding of the relevance of zoonotic risk in the current CITES context. In this report, we systematically reviewed literature detailing known associations between animals and zoonotic diseases to collate a dataset of 1,608 unique taxa associated with 369 pathogens causing 275 diseases. We then investigated the prevalence in trade over a ten-year period of CITES-listed taxa that have been associated with at least one zoonotic disease in this dataset, looking at the commodities that are traded as well as the key trade routes. We particularly concentrated on trade in live animals and meat, as two of the commodities that have been identified as having particularly high zoonotic risk. We also focussed our efforts on investigating trade at the family level, in order to address the issue of species sampling bias and because species within the same family are likely to carry similar zoonotic diseases.

An addendum to JNCC Report No. 678 – Prevalence of CITES-listed taxa associated with WHO R&D Blueprint priority diseases in legal and illegal international wildlife trade – was produced in August 2022. The addendum aims to begin to address two of the key recommendations made in the study, namely: (1) to conduct further analyses that explore the prevalence in trade of CITES-listed taxa that are associated with pathogens considered to pose a relatively higher risk to human health, for example, those that have the highest likelihood of developing into an epidemic/pandemic or that cause particularly severe disease in humans; and (2) to explore the presence of CITES-listed taxa associated with zoonotic risk in illegal trade.

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Resource type Publication

Topic category Environment

Reference date 2021·05·01

UNEP-WCMC & JNCC. 2021. Zoonotic potential of international trade in CITES listed species. JNCC Report No. 678, JNCC, Peterborough, ISSN 0963-8091.

This report explores the zoonotic potential of international trade in CITES-listed species.

Responsible organisation
Communications, JNCC publisher

Limitations on public access No limitations

Use constraints Available under the Open Government Licence 3.0

Metadata date 2022·08·31

Metadata point of contact
Communications, JNCC

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