It’s common knowledge that many people looking for pets these days aren’t settling for dogs and cats anymore. They’re looking for something unique and exotic – from reptiles to rodents and everything in between.
For example, the market for arachnids, including spiders and scorpions, is far more robust than biologists knew. A 2022 study published in the journal Nature found that more than 1,200 species are being sold around the world, often with just a click on a computer. Worryingly, the study found that 67 percent of these arachnids are being taken directly from the wild, which could have huge negative consequences for biodiversity. This is particularly alarming because only a tiny fraction of invertebrate species, including arachnids, have been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
"I don't think anyone who was buying these animals is really aware of just how likely it is that a couple of weeks prior, that animal was wandering around a rainforest or a desert somewhere. So this is a major threat to the future survival of the species," said University of Hong Kong conservation biologist and study co-author Alice Hughes.
- Arachnids have become popular pets because they don’t require much space. The study authors also said that invertebrates are easily smuggled – thermal cameras and x-ray screening doesn’t work for most invertebrates.
- Nearly 80 percent of the arachnid trade is not monitored or regulated. Potential owners aren't vetted, and some owners may simply release the animals when they are no longer wanted.
- Arachnids play a crucial role in various ecosystems. Poaching them from their natural habitats can disturb the biodiversity and stability of the environment, potentially leading to extinction for some species.