International trade in spiders endangers conservation efforts – study

A report on the international trade in spiders has revealed that it’s not as small as it looks.

Asian species Tarantula spider, found in Thailand.
Photo: 123RF

Of the 1,200 species of arachnids in trade globally, only 271 are monitored on databases, giving conservation agencies an inaccurate understanding of the impact of trade.

The study, published in the journal Communications Biology, aimed to explore global trade patterns in spiders, scorpions and other arachnids, a taxon they say is “often overlooked in conservation policy due to bias in political, public and even scientific perceptions”.

But terrestrial invertebrates are particularly sought after by buyers, forming the backbone of the exotic pet trade. Researchers estimate that half of the total tarantula population is in trade, being the most popular species for collectors. In some cases, the exotic pet trade has driven species to the brink of extinction.

This popularity, combined with their long lifespan and low reproductive rate, means that international trade is particularly threatening to the spiders.

Two-thirds of the arachnid population in trade is wild-caught, which researchers say could have a big impact on their conservation if harvested at an unsustainable rate.

Since nearly 80 percent of these species are unmonitored, the environmental impact of the trade is difficult to quantify. As a result, according to the report, arachnid conservation is “chronically underfunded.”

Given their importance in the exotic pet trade, endangered spiders are particularly vulnerable. “Novelty appears meant to play a role,” the report states, “with color, colloquial names and place of origin listed alongside arachnids for sale online.”

The researchers claimed increased efforts in monitoring and data collection to prevent unsustainable trade and the extinction of unmonitored species.

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