Abalone is SA's most traded live animal in 46 years: survey

16 November 2021 - 12:42
SA's most traded live animal is the abalone. File photo
SA's most traded live animal is the abalone. File photo
Image: SAPS

Abalone is SA's most traded live animal since 1975, an international survey has revealed.

Outforia, an outdoor and nature website studied data from the CITES trade database — a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals —  from 1975-2021 detailing the trade of live animals.

“The natural world has long been facing pressure in the form of wildlife trade, with thousands of live animals being shipped out of their habitats.

“But which are these animals, where have they been shipped off to and what exactly are they used for?” said Outforia in a statement.

The data shows SA has exported 10.6-million live animals since 1975 with its most traded animals being more than 5.5-million haliotidae or abalone.

According to the SA National Biodiversity Institute, abalone, mostly known locally as perlemoen (from the Dutch, meaning “mother-of-pearl”), is endemic to the shores of SA.

“This economically important species is highly utilised and has a high market value. It is therefore one of the most sought-after invertebrates in the country.”

The institute said increasing pressure put on local abalone by both legal and illegal harvesting had led to the banning of abalone harvesting.

“SA abalone hasn’t been fully assessed, although a few assessments done by researchers show the studied populations to be declining.

“That they have a slow growth rate makes them vulnerable to impacts of over-harvesting.

“Immediate full assessments and research on wild populations are needed so proper planning for protection and sustainable use can be done.

“Current management strategies put in place seem to have little effect in protecting this species, and continued pressure and unsustainable use seem to persist,” the institute said.

Globally Outforia found that wildlife trading reached its peak from 1999-2003 when about seven-million live animals were traded each year, while the biggest spike happened in 2018.

About 200-million live animal trades have taken place globally since 1975.

In the past 46 years, the world’s 10 most exported live animals include:

  • Iguana:    34-million
  • Sturgeon fish: 24.5-million
  • Parrots:   18.7-million
  • Leeches:  12.6-million
  • Python:   8.8-million
  • Tortoise:  8.2-million
  • Turtles:    6.6-million
  • Arowana fish:  5.9-million
  • Giant clams:    5.9-million
  • Abalone snails: 5.5-million



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