5 Alarming Facts About the Illegal Wildlife Trade

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


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Jessica G.
Jessica G2 years ago

"Never purchase exotic animals from pet shop or dealers, instead choose to adopt an animal from an animal shelter or rescue group."

What kind of advice is this? Exotic animals should never be in the hands of everyday people whether they're purchased or adopted. They should be in sanctuaries.

Mark Donner
Mark Donner3 years ago

The latest news is that Kenya is putting into effect a drone program for all 52 of its parks.. it has a 96% success rate at catching poachers. Now for Asia's environmental terrorism, Asia must be treated as a threat to this planet, and blockaded with warships if necessary, most Asian nations are terrorist countries and should be dealt with as such.

Rise-marie Grobbelaar

It seems most hunted and slaughtered wild animals goes to to east for purposes that can only be considered demonic. What is it with these savages (for they cannot be called human) that they still live in the dark ages and even beyond. They are totally without human emotion and should be hunted and destroyed, like they are doing to sentient creatures that has mental and spiritual understanding far above their own.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

I don't understand a persons selfishness can outweigh the value of a living treasure. Greed and ego. Medicinal purposes? What year is this now?! It's 2014 no the 1800s. Old tales need to be put to rest with facts.

Andrew C.
Andrew C3 years ago

Sadly noted.

john durkin
john d3 years ago

When it comes to greed , you do not have to look far. Governments,mps,meps,europe.All they seem to care about is lining their own pockets.They are the ones who look the other way, if they think that it will effect them financially. Look deep and you will see, their greed is destroying our world.They do not really care about their own people. Their so called grand schemes,are destroying the countryside. Polluting the oceans. If they realy wanted to save the earth and our animal friends. IT COULD BE DONE.

Fred L.
Fred L3 years ago

I agree with all those who advocate severe penalties for all those along the chain --from poachers to middlemen to merchants to consumers. For all those calling for the death penalty for poachers, fine, as long as you apply the same to the merchants and consumers. We should also realize that the greatest danger to wildlife is the ever increasing human population and the concomitant loss of wild habitat. Too many humans, too little wildlife.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Make an eye for an eye the true punishment.

Jeannet Bertelink

I find it very shocking and you know why? Its all money.