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


Kelsey S
Kelsey S3 months ago


Aaron F
Past Member 3 months ago

The only solution is to change human attitudes...and demands...the suppliers are merely catering to the market place...

Elaine W
Elaine W3 months ago

I have been alarmed for a long time.

Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago


Carl R
Carl R3 months ago


Freya H
Freya H3 months ago

The only way to end poaching is to remove all incentives for it. This requires a worldwide effort, changing attitudes in hundreds of cultures. That may seem like a formidably monumental task, but each mind that we change is a victory. When we change enough minds, when we crack down fiercely enough on the illegal wildlife trade, we win. I agree, Clare O - poachers should be put to death. Though I abhor violence, I believe that they should be shot on sight and their corpses left for the vultures.

Toni W
Toni W3 months ago

Humans are dreadful! Long live the animals!

Toni W
Toni W3 months ago


Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O3 months ago

I ardently do all these things and support non for profit groups like IFAW who not only get out in the field hands on, but also concerntrate on education as well in many counties around the world. Vitally important work.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara4 months ago

Bring back the death penalties for poachers. Only way. The ivory killers in Africa get about three dollars for a tusk. Death would make it not worth their while.