Wildlife crime is a big business. Each year hundreds of millions of animals are illegally caught and harvested from the wild and then sold as food, pets, clothing, medicine and tourist ornaments. These exploitative practices are threatening the survival of many endangered species. It’s not just rhinos, tigers and elephants at risk, the unsustainable and illegal wildlife trade impacts a whole host of other animal species.
Here are five alarming facts about illegal wildlife trade:
1. Between 2007 and 2012 there was a 5000% increase in rhino poaching in South Africa
Photo Credit: Arno Meintjes Wildlife
In 2012 alone, 900 rhinos were slaughtered in South Africa for their horns which are used primarily for medicinal purposes, despite no medical study in existence ever proving their beneficial effect on health. Similar spikes in rhino poaching have also been recorded throughout other parts of Africa and Asia.
2. Approximately 28,300 freshwater turtles are traded each day
Photo Credit: Mark J P
In 2011, 80% of Asia’s freshwater turtle and tortoise species were said to be at risk of extinction by conservation experts. Freshwater turtles are collected and traded in monumental numbers for use in food, medicine and as pets. At the current rate that freshwater turtles are being illegally harvested, many species whose origin pre-date the rise of dinosaurs in the late Triassic period will perish.
3. Bluefin tuna is being fished out of existence due to increasing worldwide demand for sushi and sashimi
Photo Credit: Danilo Cedrone
The clock is ticking for this awe inspiring fish as its financial value has skyrocketed since seeing a boom in both Japanese and worldwide demand for sushi and sashimi. Today all species of bluefin tuna have been declared critically endangered with illegal fishing pushing them to the point of no return, and all so we can satisfy our tastebuds.
4. There are fewer than 3,200 tigers left in the wild
Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar
Despite the trade of tiger parts being banned worldwide in the early 1990s, tigers remain in serious danger from poachers. The use of tiger parts for traditional medicine is thought to have contributed to a 95 percent drop in wild tiger numbers in the last century alone. Most recent figures now suggest that there could be fewer than 3,200 tigers left in the wild.
5. Pangolins are one of the most trafficked mammals in Asia and Africa
Photo Credit: Valerius Tygart
Pangolins are highly desired for their body parts in Asia, and now increasingly in Africa. All species of pangolin are protected under national and international laws, but poachers continue to slaughter them to meet culinary and medicinal demand. Pangolin fetuses, blood and scales are all used for medicinal purposes, the meat is considered a delicacy, and their bodies are stuffed and sold as souvenirs.
What You Can Do To Help Stop This Cruelty
- Never purchase exotic animals from pet shop or dealers, instead choose to adopt an animal from an animal shelter or rescue group.
- Support legislation that makes the owning of exotic animals illegal in your local community.
- Avoid buying wild animal products when travelling including meat, skins and traditional medicines, and encourage others to ask questions and get the facts before making purchases.
- Sign petitions that help to push governments to protect threatened animal populations and enforce better laws and stricter deterrents.
Photo Credit: Ray Morris