Countries across Southeast Asia are being systematically drained of wildlife to meet a booming demand for exotic pets in Europe and Japan and traditional medicine in China - posing a greater threat to many species than habitat loss or global warming.
More than 35 million animals were legally exported from the region over the past decade, according to official figures, and hundreds of millions more could have been taken illegally.
Almost half of those traded were seahorses and more than 17 million were reptiles. About one million birds and 400,000 mammals were sold, and 18 million pieces of coral.
The situation is so serious that experts have invented a new term - empty forest syndrome - to describe the gaping holes in biodiversity left behind."There's lots of forest where there are no big animals left," says Chris Shepherd of Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
"There are some forests where you don't even hear birds."Seahorses, butterflies, turtles, lizards, snakes, macaques, birds and corals are among the most common species exported from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Much of the business is controlled by criminal gangs, Shepherd says, and many of the animals end up in Europe as pets. The rarer the species, the greater the demand and the higher the price.
Collectors will happily pay several thousand pounds for a single live turtle.
Vincent Nijman, a researcher at Oxford Brookes University in England, who has investigated the trade, said: "We see species that are in fashion traded in great numbers until they are wiped out and people can't get them any more. So another one comes in, and then that is wiped out, and then another ..."
"In Asia, everybody knows the value of wildlife, so people go into the forest and, whatever they encounter, they know it has a value and that there is someone they can sell it to."
Nijman's research offers the first glimpse of the size of this widespread trade. While most people know of illegal sales of rhino horn and ivory, it's the scale of the movement of lesser-known species that is most disturbing.
He analysed 53,000 records of imports and exports from countries under Cites, the international convention that regulates the sale of wildlife.
Read this facts,Think,rethink and think again because its happening there today and tommorow its going to be here,YETS put your senses at work for the benefit of our nation !
By Mary Ngazi