Chapter 14: Wildlife trade in South Asia
South Asia comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Considered one of the most dynamic regions in the world, it is home to 1.649 billion people, which includes 570 million, or 44 per cent, of the world’s poor (World Bank 2014). Countries of the region have been known since historical times as suppliers of naturally sourced products such as spices. These products remain globally coveted commodities. South Asia’s status as a supplier of wild plant and animal products is unsurprising. With its diversity of habitats, ranging from the world’s ‘Third Pole’ _ the Himalayas _ to coastal waters on the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, the region is home to high biological diversity. Some of the most iconic wildlife species in the world, including tigers, Indian rhinos, Asian elephants and snow leopards are indigenous to South Asia. Following the diversity of habitats, a large variety of birds, amphibians, reptiles, medicinal plants and other floral species of economic significance are also present. Although the biodiversity is unsurprising, its persistence into modern times is remarkable. Three of South Asia’s countries are amongst the most populated on the globe (Population Reference Bureau 2013). Despite human pressure from within the region, major elements of its biodiversity are still intact.
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