South Africa is facing an unprecedented crisis in the animal export industries. In the last 14 years the country legally exported more than 10,000 live, endangered mammals, making it officially the world's number one exporter of endangered wildlife species.
The latest Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Flora report states that the booming industry made commercial sales in excess of R19,7 billion, but conservation bodies say the trend is becoming a significant threat to the survival of the continent's wildlife than poaching.
"This continues the breeding of captive animals for the pet trade. They (breeders) remove them, hand-rear them, when they start breeding them again, they do the same thing. It's just fuelling the trade and there's a lot of abuse that takes place," says senior inspector Isabel Wentzel, manager of the wildlife protection unit at the NSPCA.
"There's a lot of internal trade with these things inside Africa where its out of hand and nobody actually knows the extent of it," said Wentzel.
Globally, the most exported animal overall is the African Green Monkey, a popular pet, with over half finding themselves in Russia -- the biggest importer of animals.
"Those of us troubled by this data must understand that Africa's legitimate economic and cultural imperatives drive these exports — and frequently poaching as well — and that stopping them is not simple. For one thing, the income derived from animal exports would have to be replaced." Says Big Think analyst Robyn Berman.