At first it seems like any other unboxing video you see on YouTube: A young man holds a mysterious gift box (Mystery Box) in front of the camera. He introduced a box that costs 1,000 pounds (equivalent to nearly 30 million VND).
And what unexpected gift would you expect in such a mysterious box? Is it a new iPhone? A MacBook Pro or a pair of luxury travel tickets to Europe?
No! When the young man opened the box, he received a Spider-Man costume (not the one that IronMan sent him), but just a normal cosplay outfit that looked ugly to wear.
What was in the £1,000 box turned out to be seven living tarantulas to add to the collection behind his back. The young man also zoomed in on a particularly rare furry animal, so you can see every soft feather on its eight crooked legs.
Welcome to the spider market.
There is a global spider market
You’ve probably heard a lot about the stock market, the gold market, the cryptocurrency market. But have you ever heard of the global spider market? In fact, wherever there is a good or a service, for buyers and sellers to exchange, there will be a market.
In a new study published in the journal Communication Biology, scientists have for the first time conducted a survey of the global spider market. And the result must also surprise them when there are thousands of spider species being bought and sold every day in the world.
For example, Tarantulas, a large family of venomous and pitiful spiders, are one of the most traded objects. Orderers can purchase them through Mystery Boxes, which stores will randomly send to them.
Alice Hughes, a conservation biologist at the University of Hong Kong, said: “You can buy yourself a mysterious spider gift box. It’s like when you get a Pokémon: You can get a super rare one, or you can get a random spider.”
Many people buy spiders for fun, they keep them for ornamental purposes because many species of spiders are very colorful and beautiful. The life span of spiders can also be up to decades, so they can stick with their owners for a long time.
But there are also people who buy and sell them for economic purposes. Because arachnids also include uropygi and scorpions, these animals can produce venom that can be sold at high prices.
In a previous article, we talked about the preciousness of scorpion venom, and why each milliliter of their venom can be sold for up to 230 million VND.
The problem with the market for spiders and arachnids, though, is that most of them are currently caught in the wild. That is, the development of the medium invisible market also threatens the existence of these species.
Therefore, having an overview of the global spider market also allows scientists to have a plan or solution to both ensure the economic benefits that these animals bring, and ensure their survival. and their biodiversity in the wild.
It’s a huge “black market”
The new study was carried out by conservation biologist Benjamin Marshall and his colleagues at the University of Suranaree. In it, Marshall conducted an internet survey by searching for the terms “spider,” “spider class,” and “scorpion” in nine different languages to identify sites that sell them.
After eliminating stores that sold unrelated items, such as Spider-Man collectibles or spider excavators, Marshall had a list of websites specializing in the sale and trade of wild spiders.
To be sure, the scientists also used the Internet Archive to find sales sites dating back to 2002.
As a result, Marshall and colleagues found 1,248 species of spiders being traded around the world. This long list includes many rather rare species, such as the giant Asian forest scorpion and the striped tarantula spider of Costa Rica.
But amazingly, even the long-legged spiders that abound in basements can be put up for sale. “These spiders are not pretty or impressive,” said Caroline Fukushima, a postdoctoral fellow at the Finnish Museum of Natural History. have legs“.
To compare the size of the spider market being trafficked on the internet, the scientists matched it with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s database. Amazingly, even the US government agency lists only 267 species of spiders.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (also known as the CITES Convention) also regulates the international trade of 30 species of spiders in all. That means the majority of spiders being traded on the internet belong to the black market.
The scientists said more than 70 percent of the species they found were not recognized as permitted for trade by any regulatory agency.
What are the consequences of that?
About two-thirds of all spiders and scorpions traded on the internet today are caught in the wild, rather than in captivity, according to Marshall and colleagues, according to Marshall and colleagues.
And their number can reach millions of individuals. For example, in the US alone, the country imported 1 million emperor scorpions between 2000 and 2021. With a group of spiders of the species Grammostola tarantulas, this number is about 600,000.
Hughes said: “Usually when people walk into a pet store, they think the animals are bred and kept in captivity. But for small animals like spiders, more than 50% of the individuals you see in stores. Pet shops have actually been caught from the wild.
And that’s the number before we calculate their mortality, because of course, if they were transported from a place like Africa, a large number of individuals could have died along the way.”
In addition, the black market for spiders is growing so fast that some spider species are sold before scientists even know about them. They have identified about 100 such species, one of which is the “Vietnam blue tarantula” species.
The website Reptile Rapture is selling this spider with a warning: “Not for beginners. This spider has a very strong defense mechanism.”. This could be a new subspecies of tarantula, but it could also be an entirely new species of spider.
“This shows that spider hunters are just going out in the field, they find a new species, they immediately catch them and put them online for sale.“, said Anne Danielson-Francois, an ecologist and arachnid behaviorist at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
“The wildlife trade is a major cause of biodiversity loss. A recent analysis found the pet trade to be a major potential threat to 36% of reptiles and 17% of amphibians, with about half of the individuals originating from wild populations. and those are numbers beyond our imagination and previous estimates“, the researchers wrote.
Wildlife, including spiders, is not an infinite resource. If removed in large numbers from the wild, they could be threatened to the point of extinction.
However, when it comes to the wildlife trade so far, the public has focused on only a few species, such as elephants, parrots and sea turtles. They are rarely aware that insects like spiders are also being traded under a huge black market.
So this new study is a wake-up call for management and conservation agencies that they will need more regulation, more sanctions to control this spider trade.
Reference Nytimes, Scientificalert, Wired