Countries across south-east Asia are being systematically drained of wildlife to meet a booming demand for exotic pets in Europe and Japan and traditional medicine in China – posing a greater threat to many species than habitat loss or global warming.
More than 35 million animals were legally exported from the region over the past decade, official figures show, and hundreds of millions more could have been taken illegally. Almost half of those traded were seahorses and more than 17 million were reptiles. About 1 million birds and 400,000 mammals were traded, along with 18 million pieces of coral.
The situation is so serious that experts have invented a new term – empty forest syndrome – to describe the gaping holes in biodiversity left behind.
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