Illegal trade of morphologically distinct populations prior to taxonomic assessment and elevation, with recommendations for future prevention

The negative impacts of international wildlife trafficking are well known, and such negative impacts can be even more pronounced for insular species. This dynamic market needs close monitoring, and when novel species appear in the commercial trade, relevant authorities should be able to react to reduce negative impacts on wild populations. Here we describe a novel case where an insular endemic population of the Iguana iguanacomplex has entered the international commercial trade, likely stimulated by efforts to elevate the population taxonomically. Despite the absence of authorized export permits from the relevant CITES authority, we identify animals that are sold in a range of countries and the likely pathway and methods of importation. We provide recommendations to prevent future illegal collection and trafficking that could be implemented for other taxa. We call for increased awareness of the higher economic value of taxa considered for future taxonomic elevation, and increased monitoring of the commercial trade in order to act promptly when illegal activity is detected. 


CITES legislation, Commercial trade, Iguana iguana, Illegal trade, Laundering, Pet trade


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