Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 2899–2911 | Cite as

Exploited for pets: the harvest and trade of amphibians and reptiles from Indonesian New Guinea

  • Daniel J. D. Natusch
  • Jessica A. Lyons
Original Paper


Over-exploitation of wildlife is a significant threat to global biodiversity, but addressing the sustainability of harvests can be difficult when trade is conducted illegally. The wildlife trade is driven chiefly by consumer demand, largely in developed nations (but increasingly in Asia), and more species are traded to meet international demand for pets than for any other purpose. We surveyed traders of amphibians and reptiles in the Indonesian provinces of Maluku, West Papua and Papua between September 2010 and April 2011. We recorded 5,370 individuals representing 52 species collected solely for the pet trade. At least 44 % were either fully protected or had not been allocated a harvest quota, making their harvest and trade illegal. Approximately half were listed within the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Trade operates via a complex chain, with hunters receiving little income compared to middlemen and exporters. Examination of Indonesian harvest quotas for amphibians and reptiles suggests limited knowledge of species distributions, with quotas often set for species in provinces where they do not occur. Illegal trade is due, partly, to an inadequate understanding of the species being traded and is facilitated by poor monitoring and enforcement at key trade hubs. As a first step to combatting illegal trade, and to better understand the effects of harvest on wild populations, we recommend the need for increased monitoring and enforcement, improving the knowledge base of species traded and educating consumers about the effects their demand for pets has on these species.


Biodiversity CITES Exotic pets Herpetofauna Illegal wildlife trade Monitor Python 



We thank the Indonesian traders and villagers who accommodated us over the course of our studies. Thanks also to A. Allison and F. Kraus for their assistance in identifying specimens from photographs and C. Shepherd and M. Auliya for comments that improved an earlier version of this manuscript.


  1. Adams MJ (1999) Correlated factors in amphibian decline: exotic species and habitat change in western Washington. J Wildl Manage 63:1162–1171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allison A (2007a) The Herpetofauna of Indonesia’s Papua Province, New Guinea. In: Marshall AJ, Beehler BM (eds) The Ecology of Papua. Periplus Press, Singapore, pp 564–616Google Scholar
  3. Allison A (2007b) Preliminary checklist of amphibians and reptiles reported from Papua and the Aru islands. In: Marshall AJ, Beehler BM (eds), The ecology of Papua. Periplus Press, Singapore, pp 1410–1415 (supplemented by
  4. Anonymous (2011) Kuota pengambilan tumbuhan alam dan penangkapan satwa liar untuk periode tahun 2011. Keputusan Direktur Jenderal Perlindungan Hutan Dan Konservasi AlamGoogle Scholar
  5. Auliya M (2006) Taxonomy, life history and conservation of giant reptiles in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). Natur und Tier Verlag, MünsterGoogle Scholar
  6. Auliya M (2007) An identification guide to the tortoises and freshwater turtles of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore and Timor-Leste. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Petaling JayaGoogle Scholar
  7. Auliya M (2010) Conservation status and impact of trade on the oriental rat snake Ptyas mucosa in Java, Indonesia. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Petaling JayaGoogle Scholar
  8. Berger L et al (1998) Chytridiomycosis causes amphibian mortality associated with population declines in the rain forests of Australia and Central America. Proc Natl Acad Sci 95:9031–9036PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brooks TM et al (2002) Habitat loss and extinction in the hotspots of biodiversity. Conserv Biol 16:1523–1739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bryman A (2004) Social Research Methods. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Burnett JB (2007) Setting priorities and planning conservation in papua. In: Marshall AJ, Beehler BM (eds) The Ecology of Papua. Periplus Editions, Singapore, pp 1230–1250Google Scholar
  12. Cahill AJ, Walker JS, Marsden SJ (2006) Recovery within a population of the critically endangered citron-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata in Indonesia after 10 years of international trade control. Oryx 40:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. CITES Asian Snake Trade Workshop (2011) Guangzhou, China, 11-14th April. <> (accessed April 2011)
  14. Daszak P, Cunningham AA, Hyatt AD (2003) Infectious disease and amphibian population declines. Divers Distrib 9:141–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davies B (2005) Black market: inside the endangered species trade in Asia. Earth Aware Editions, San Rafael, USAGoogle Scholar
  16. Dodd KC (1993) Strategies for snake conservation. In: Seigel RA, Collins JT (eds) Snakes: Ecology and behaviour. The Blackburn Press, New Jersey, pp 363–393Google Scholar
  17. Dunson WA, Wyman RL, Corbett ES (1992) A symposium on amphibian declines and habitat acidification. J Herpetol 26:349–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Eisemberg CC, Rose M, Yaru B, Georges A (2011) Demonstrating decline of an iconic species under sustained indigenous harvest-The pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) in Papua New Guinea. Biol Conserv 144:2282–2288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frazier S (2007) Threats to biodiversity. In: Marshall AJ, Beehler BM (eds) The ecology of Papua. Periplus Editions, Singapore, pp 1199–1229Google Scholar
  20. Gavin MC, Solomon JN, Blank SG (2010) Measuring and monitoring illegal use of natural resources. Conserv Biol 24:89–100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gibbons JW et al (2000) The global decline of reptiles, déjà vu amphibians. Bioscience 50:653–666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grieser-Johns A, Thomson J (2005) Going, going, gone: the illegal trade in wildlife in east and Southeast Asia. World Bank, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  23. Iskandar DT, Erdelen WR (2006) Conservation of amphibians and reptiles in Indonesia: issues and problems. Amphibi Reptil Conserv 4:60–87Google Scholar
  24. King DI, Lambert JD, Buonaccorsi JP, Prout LS (2008) Avian population trends in the vulnerable montane forests of the northern appalachians, USA. Biodivers Conserv 17:2691–2700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lyons JA, Natusch DJD (2011) Wildlife laundering through breeding farms: illegal harvest, population declines and a means of regulating the trade of green pythons (Morelia viridis) from Indonesia. Biol Conserv 144:3073–3081CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lyons JA, Natusch DJD (2012) Consumer driven conservation of green pythons is possible if the price is right: a reply to Pernetta (2012). Biol Conserv 147:2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lyons JA, Natusch DJD, Shepherd CR (in press) Australasian turtle trade: freshwater turtles harvested from Papua, Indonesia, for the international pet trade. Oryx (in press)Google Scholar
  28. McCallum M (2007) Amphibian decline or extinction? current declines dwarf background extinction rate. J Herpetol 41:483–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ministry of Forestry, Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation, Directorate of Biodiversity Conservation (PHKA), 2011. Country report of Indonesia: snake trade and conservation. Jakarta, available online at <> (accessed March 2011)
  30. Nash SV (1993) Problems with implementation of CITES Article IV in Southeast Asia. Review No. 1: Indonesia. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, MalaysiaGoogle Scholar
  31. Natusch DJD, Lyons JA (2011) The harvest of Antaresia maculosa from west Papua, Indonesia. Herpetol Rev 42:509–511Google Scholar
  32. Natusch DJD, Lyons JA (2012a) Distribution, ecological attributes and trade of the New Guinea carpet python (Morelia spilota) in Indonesia. Aust J Zoo 59:236–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Natusch DJD, Lyons JA (2012b) Ecological attributes and trade of the white-lipped pythons (Genus Leiopython) in Indonesian New Guinea. Aust J Zoo 59:339–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Natusch DJD, Lyons JA (in press) Relationships among ontogenetic changes in prey selection, trophic structure, sexual maturity and colour in an Australasian python (Morelia viridis). Biol J Linn Soc (in press)Google Scholar
  35. Nijman V (2010) An overview of international wildlife trade from Southeast Asia. Biodivers Conserv 19:1101–1114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nijman V, Shepherd CR (2009) Wildlife trade from ASEAN to the EU: issues with the trade in captive-bred reptiles from Indonesia. TRAFFIC Europe Report for the European Commission, Brussels, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
  37. Nijman V, Shepherd CR, Mumpuni Sanders KL (2012) Over-exploitation and illegal trade of reptiles in Indonesia. Herpetol J 22:83–89Google Scholar
  38. Nilson G, Andren C, Flardh B (1990) Viperaa albizona, a new mountain viper from central Turkey, with comments on isolating effects of the Anatolian Diagonal. Amphibia-Reptilia 11:285–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. O’Brien S, Emahalala ER, Beard V, Rakotondrainy RM, Reid A, Raharisoa V, Coulson T (2003) Decline of the Madagascar radiated tortoise Geochelone radiata due to overexploitation. Oryx 37:338–343Google Scholar
  40. O’Shea M (1996) A guide to the snakes of Papua New Guinea. Independant Publishing, Port MoresbyGoogle Scholar
  41. Oza GM (1990) Ecological effects of the frog’s leg trade. Environmentalist 10:39–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pernetta AP (2009) Monitoring the trade: using the CITES database to examine the global trade in live monitor lizards (Varanus spp.). Biawak 3:37–45Google Scholar
  43. Pimenta BVS, Haddad CFB, Nascimento LB, Cruz CAG, Pombal JP Jr (2005) Status and trends of amphibian declines and extinctions worldwide. Science 309:1999PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pounds JA, Crump ML (1994) Amphibian declines and climate disturbance: the case of the golden toad and the harlequin frog. Conserv Biol 8:72–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pounds JA, Fogden MP, Campbell JH (1999) Biological response to climate change on a tropical mountain. Nature 398:611–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Purvis A, Gittleman JL, Cowlishaw G, Mace GM (2000) Predicting extinction risk in declining species. Proc R Soc Lond B 267:1947–1952CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Reading CJ et al (2010) Are snake populations in widespread decline? Biol Lett 6:777–780PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schipper J et al (2008) The status of the worlds land and marine mammals: diversity, threat, and knowledge. Science 322:225–230PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schoppe S (2009) Status, trade dynamics and management of the Southeast Asian box turtle in Indonesia. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Petaling JayaGoogle Scholar
  50. Shepherd CR (2000) Export of live freshwater turtles and tortoises from North Sumatra and Riau, Indonesia: a case study. In: van Dijk PP, Stuart BL, Rhodin AGJ (eds) Asian turtle trade: proceedings of a workshop on conservation and trade of freshwater turtles and tortoises in Asia. Chelonian Res Monogr 2:112–119Google Scholar
  51. Shepherd CR (2007) Trade in the black-and-white Laughingthrush Garrulax bicolor and White-crested Laughingthrush G. leucolophus in Indonesia. Birding ASIA 8:49–52Google Scholar
  52. Shepherd CR (2010) Illegal primate trade in Indonesia exemplified by surveys carried out over a decade in North Sumatra. Endang Species Res 11:201–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shepherd CR, Ibarrondo B (2005) The trade of the roti island snake-necked turtle Chelodina mccordi, Indonesia. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Petaling JayaGoogle Scholar
  54. Shepherd CR, Nijman V (2007) An overview of the regulation of the freshwater turtle and tortoise pet trade in Jakarta, Indonesia. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Petaling JayaGoogle Scholar
  55. Shine R, Ambariyanto PS, Harlow Mumpuni (1999a) Reticulated pythons in Sumatra: biology, harvesting and sustainability. Biol Conserv 87:349–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shine R, Ambariyanto PS, Harlow Mumpuni (1999b) Attributes of two commercially-harvested python species in Northern Sumatra. J Herpetol 33:249–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sodhi NS, Koh LP, Brook BW, Ng PKL (2004) Southeast Asian biodiversity: an impending disaster. Trends Ecol Evol 19:654–660PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sodhi NS et al (2008) Measuring the meltdown: drivers of global amphibian extinction and decline. PLoS ONE 3:e1636PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stuart SN, Chanson JS, Cox NA, Young BE, Rodrigues ASL, Fischman DL, Waller RW (2004) Status and trends of amphibian declines and extinctions worldwide. Science 306:1783–1786PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Suryadi S, Wijayanto A, Wahyudi M (2004) Survey pasar/monitoring Perdagangan hidupan liar di kabupaten Manokwari dan Jayapura, Papua. Enforcement economic report No. 5. conservation international Indonesia dan seksi Konservasi Wilayah I Manokwari Balai Konservasi Sumbar Daya Alam Papua II. JakartaGoogle Scholar
  61. Suryadi S, Wijayanto A, Cannon JB (2007) Conservation laws, regulations, and legislation in Indonesia. In: Marshall AJ, Beehler BM (eds) The Ecology of Papua. Periplus Editions, Singapore, pp 1276–1310Google Scholar
  62. van Balen SB, Dirgayusa IWA, Adi Putra IMW, Prins H (2000) Status and distribution of the endemic Bali Starling Leucopsar rothschildi. Oryx 34:188–197Google Scholar
  63. van Dijk PP, Stuart BL, Rhodin AGJ (2000) Asian turtle trade: proceedings of a workshop on conservation and trade of freshwater side-necked turtles and tortoises in Asia. Chelonian Res Monogr 2:1–164Google Scholar
  64. WWF (1998). The results of a survey on traded reptile species in Wamena, Sorong and Meruake, Irian Jaya in 1998.A report by WWF Sahul Region, Jayapura, IndonesiaGoogle Scholar
  65. Yuwono FB (1998) The trade of live reptiles in Indonesia. Mertensiella 9:9–15Google Scholar
  66. Zhou Z, Jiang Z (2004) International trade status and crisis for snake species in China. Conserv Biol 18:1386–1394CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations