Every year hundreds of thousands of animals are captured from the wild to serve as pets in domestic homes; reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and invertebrates. Industry figures for 2012 specify that 500,000 wild animals were imported into the UK alone that year with a staggering 50,000 of them having been caught in the wild. A shocking 75% of these ill-fated creatures die during their first year as a "pet".
Evidence suggests that our planet is currently entering the 6th global-scale mass extinction known since life began on Earth. However, while decades of research have fundamentally focused on the effects that climate change and habitat destruction have exerted on the conservation of biodiversity the scientific estimation of the impacts of global-scale pet-trade activities on species declines remains almost entirely ignored.
As the Owner-Operator of Grace's Rest I was thrilled to accept an unconditional offer and enrol on the PhD Programme in the Life Sciences department in February 2017 and to therefore take my scientific ambitions to the next level.
Working alongside my supervisor, Dr Daniel Pincheira-Donoso at the University of Lincoln, we will examine the direct impact of the trade in wild animals as pets upon global natural populations.
I am working out of the Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Adaptations and have also become a member of the Global Amphibian Biodiversity research team (website launching soon).
Through this study we intend to answer three fundamental questions:
1) Are species categorised as threatened more extensively exploited as pets?
This question will establish whether the conservation status of threatened species (e.g., extinct, threatened, vulnerable) can be predicted by the extent to which those species are heavily exploited as pets. We predict that indiscriminate pet-trade activity is responsible for the threatened conservation status of many species in the wild. The results of this investigation will therefore allow species specific conservation efforts to be implemented for those animals found to be at the highest risk or endangerment of extinction.
2) Are there specific areas of the world more heavily exploited by the pet-trade industry?
This question aims to identify whether some regions of the planet (e.g. tropics) concentrate higher numbers of coexisting species that are exploited as pets, in order to spatially focus protection policy.
3) What factors are influencing the diversity of species targeted by the exotic pet trade?
It is known from current research that the exotic pet trade is heavily linked to both legal and illegal trade activities relating to animal parts such as skins and traditional medicine ingredients. We aim to establish at what point the illicit and authorised trade in exotic species as pets meet and the factors that are driving this relationship. Our prediction is that cultural and fashion trends are the main drivers of this relationship.
The results of the study will influence wildlife protection legislation in a positive way for years to come. We will also identify specific areas of the world that are more heavily exploited than others as well as those species most threatened so that wildlife protection policy can be targeted to those regions and animals.
All the money raised through this appeal will go towards:
Payment of tuition fees
Parts for a PC upgrade to handle the vast amounts of data processing required
Essential textbooks, journals and stationery
Transport costs between home and the University campus (170 mile round trip)
Travel expenses to academic conferences and seminars within the UK and abroad
Please note that a donation through the links on this specific page are NOT towards the rescue work of Grace's Rest; they are purely to support this research project.
Supported by Ladbrook Insurance, a specialist animal charity insurance provider.
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Meet the Owner-Operator, Clare Barnard BSc.(Hons)
Clare is a research scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Lincoln where she is studying wildlife conservation and the direct impact of the exotic pet trade on wild animal populations. She will be working from the Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Adaptations. Clare has also been honoured to become part of the Global Amphibian Biodiversity research team.
Clare has almost 20 years professional experience in the husbandry of exotic animals a specialism in the genetics of British herpetofauna. She has worked with wild Adders (Vipera berus) and endangered Natterjack Toads (Epidalea calamita) under Natural England license conditions. Clare has worked as a zookeeper and within private collections including her own. She lives in rural North Warwickshire, on-site at Grace's Rest, with a whole host of animals!