Seizure Trends in the Wildlife Trade

Bristol Rigby & Megan Rogers

Authors:  Bristol Rigby, Megan Rogers, Dr. Christina Romagosa

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Christina Romagosa

College:  College of Agricultural and Life Sciences


The illegal wildlife trade is defined as the movement of trafficked wildlife and their parts across borders. The lucrative black market for trafficked wildlife ranges between $7 to $23 billion USD annually, and 46% of worldwide wildlife seizures occur in North America. The challenge in describing trends in the wildlife trade is that it is difficult to quantify the number of species that enter the US. The objective of our study was to identify the most commonly seized species from 5 animal groups (invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) at one of the main ports of entry in the US, the Miami International Airport (MIA). We analyzed the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) data on animal imports and exports. LEMIS records detail wildlife data imported into the US, including: scientific name, common name, quantity, and whether the animal was accepted, refused, seized or abandoned at the port. We will provide information on the 3 most commonly seized species per animal group. Future research should incorporate regions of origin in order to better understand trade networks, and how wildlife regulations can be enforced to prevent the expansion of the illegal wildlife trade.

Poster Pitch

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Michelle Huang
Michelle Huang (@guest_4182)
1 year ago

Wonderful poster! It is very pleasing to look at and well-organized. Your presentation was comprehensive, and made it easy to navigate the poster and understand the important details.

Megan Rogers
Megan Rogers (@guest_4506)
Reply to  Michelle Huang
1 year ago

Thank you Michelle! We appreciate it!

Ashley Jenkins
Ashley Jenkins (@guest_4230)
1 year ago

Hi Bristol and Megan! This was a super interesting presentation, and I love the way your poster looks. You mentioned the ball python had 2000 seizures, which would make it not only the most seized reptile, but also the most seized overall species. Why do you think that is? Is there a reason the wildlife trade draws in more illegally trafficked ball pythons than the other species studied?

Bristol Rigby
Bristol Rigby (@guest_5586)
Reply to  Ashley Jenkins
1 year ago

Hey Ashley!

Thanks for your comment. The row of images towards the middle of our poster represents the species seized by quantity or number of individuals, not by the instances of seizure. Therefore, the ball python wasn’t necessarily seized 2000 times, but 2000 individuals were seized between 1999-2015.

The ball python is a very popular snake in the pet trade. Although they are listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List they are listed as Appendix II through CITES so more than likely, since they are a highly traded animal, the shipment may not have had the proper CITES permitting.

Bristol Rigby
Bristol Rigby (@guest_4456)
1 year ago

Hey everyone! If you’d like to chat with us regarding any questions, we have a zoom scheduled!

Macartney Ewing
Macartney Ewing (@guest_5032)
1 year ago

What an interesting and informative poster! Thank you for all of the information. Similar to Ashley’s question, I am interested to know why the Tendrobates auratus (top siezed amphibian) is highly trafficked?

Megan Rogers
Megan Rogers (@guest_7060)
Reply to  Macartney Ewing
1 year ago

Hello Macartney!

Dendrobates auratus is a commonly seized species of frog for a few reasons.

They are a CITES Appendix II listed species, so if they are being imported into the US, they need the proper CITES permits. Therefore, they would be seized if the shipment did not have the proper paperwork. They are also sought after in the pet trade for their colors. If you look them up, they are gorgeous frogs!

Allen Wysocki - Associate Dean CALS
Allen Wysocki - Associate Dean CALS (@guest_6394)
1 year ago

Bristol and Megan:

Very nice to zoom with you and learn about your research. Sounds like you had a wonderful research experience,

Doc W

Megan Rogers and Bristol Rigby
Megan Rogers and Bristol Rigby (@guest_7266)

It was very nice talking to you and thank you for your questions!