Live reptile smuggling is predicted by trends in the legal exotic pet trade

Oliver Stringham* (Corresponding Author), Pablo Garcia Diaz, Adam Toomes, Lewis Mitchell, Joshua Ross, Phill Cassey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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Live animal smuggling presents a suite of conservation and biosecurity concerns, including the introduction of invasive species and diseases. Yet, understanding why certain species are smuggled over others, and predicting which species will be smuggled, remains relatively unexplored. Here, we compared the live reptile species illegally smuggled to Australia (75 species) to the legal trade of live
reptile species in the United States. Almost all smuggled species were found in the legal US pet market (74 species), and we observed an average time lag of 5.6 years between a species first appearing in the United States and its subsequent detection in Australia. Using a Bayesian regression model, species popularity in the United States, and internationally, were positively associated with smuggling probability to Australia. Our findings give insight to the drivers of illegal wildlife trade and our predictive modelling approach provides a framework for anticipating future trends in wildlife smuggling.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12833
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number6
Early online date17 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

This research was funded by the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (Project PO1-I-002). PG-D was partially supported by NERC grant NE/S011641/1 under the Newton Latam program. The authors acknowledge the Indigenous Traditional Owners of the land on which the University of Adelaide is built—the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains. We thank Jacob Maher and Talia Wittmann for sharing Australian zoo keeping data.


  • alien species
  • Biosecurity
  • illegal wildlife trade
  • pet trade
  • trafficking
  • wildlife trade


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