Summarizing US Wildlife Trade with an Eye Toward Assessing the Risk of Infectious Disease Introduction

K. M. Smith, C. Zambrana-Torrelio, A. White, M. Asmussen, C. Machalaba, S. Kennedy, K. Lopez, T. M. Wolf, P. Daszak, D. A. Travis, W. B. Karesh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The aim of this study was to characterize the role of the USA in the global exchange of wildlife and describe high volume trade with an eye toward prioritizing health risk assessment questions for further analysis. Here we summarize nearly 14 years (2000–2013) of the most comprehensive data available (USFWS LEMIS system), involving 11 billion individual specimens and an additional 977 million kilograms of wildlife. The majority of shipments contained mammals (27%), while the majority of specimens imported were shells (57%) and tropical fish (25%). Most imports were facilitated by the aquatic and pet industry, resulting in one-third of all shipments containing live animals. The importer reported origin of wildlife was 77.7% wild-caught and 17.7% captive-reared. Indonesia was the leading exporter of legal shipments, while Mexico was the leading source reported for illegal shipments. At the specimen level, China was the leading exporter of legal and illegal wildlife imports. The number of annual declared shipments doubled during the period examined, illustrating continually increasing demand, which reinforces the need to scale up capacity for border inspections, risk management protocols and disease surveillance. Most regulatory oversight of wildlife trade is aimed at conservation, rather than prevention of disease introduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-39
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project is supported by the US Department of Homeland Security S&T through a grant awarded by the Food Protection and Defense Institute. This study was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT-2 project. The contents are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. The authors thank the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for their contribution of LEMIS data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, The Author(s).


  • disease
  • illegal trade
  • legal trade
  • species
  • wildlife trade


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