Animals traded for traditional medicine at the Faraday market in South Africa: species diversity and conservation implications

Authors

  • M. J. Whiting,

    1. School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
    2. Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
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  • V. L. Williams,

    1. School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
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  • T. J. Hibbitts

    1. School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
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    • *Current address: Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX 77843-2258, USA.


  • Editor: Andrew Kitchener

Correspondence
Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.
Email: martin.whiting@mq.edu.au

Abstract

In South Africa, animals and plants are commonly used as traditional medicine for both the healing of ailments and for symbolic purposes such as improving relationships and attaining good fortune. The aim of this study was twofold: to quantify the species richness and diversity of traded animal species and to assess the trade in species of conservation concern. We surveyed the Faraday traditional medicine market in Johannesburg and conducted 45 interviews of 32 traders during 23 visits. We identified 147 vertebrate species representing about 9% of the total number of vertebrate species in South Africa and about 63% of the total number of documented species (excluding domestic animals) traded in all South African traditional medicine markets. The vertebrates included 60 mammal species, 33 reptile species, 53 bird species and one amphibian species. Overall, species diversity in the Faraday market was moderately high and highest for mammals and birds, respectively. Evenness values indicated that relatively few species were dominant. Mammal body parts and bones were the most commonly sold items (n=2453, excluding porcupine quills and pangolin scales), followed by reptiles (n=394, excluding osteoderms), birds (n=193, excluding feathers and ostrich eggs) and amphibians (n=6). Most (87.5%) species traded were of least concern using IUCN criteria, although 17 species were of conservation concern. However, a higher than expected proportion of traders (62.5%) were selling listed species, which is a matter for concern and should be monitored in the future.

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