Wildlife Trafficking is Threatening Nearly Half of All World Heritage Sites

There are hundreds of UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world that have been protected because they are culturally, ecologically and economically valuable.

These sites are among the last strongholds for some of the earth’s most iconic and endangered species, including orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos.

Unfortunately, even though these sites are recognized for their ‘outstanding universal value,’ researchers have found they’re still being threatened by illegal activities.

According to a report just released by the World Wildlife Fund, poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing are occurring in nearly 30 percent of natural and mixed World Heritage sites. And threatened or endangered species are being poached or illegally harvested from 45 percent of them. More concerning is that these numbers are believed to be low estimates, because the nature of illegal activities makes them difficult to track.

“Natural World Heritage sites are among the most recognised natural sites for their universal value. Yet many are threatened by destructive industrial activities and our new report shows that their often unique animals and plants are also affected by overexploitation and trafficking,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General at WWF International.

Not only is illegal activity driving endangered species towards the brink of extinction, many of who are keystone species that others rely on for survival. Sadly it’s not just wildlife that’s being put at risk. The illegal timber trade, which is valued in the billions, is devastating local habitats and ecosystems and is a major driver of deforestation.

In turn these losses hurt us all. Rainforests store carbon and provide clean water, while biodiversity and healthy ecosystems benefit local communities.

According to the report, 93 percent of natural World Heritage sites support recreation and tourism and 91 percent provide jobs, but losing species could draw in less people, and reduce incentives for keeping these areas protected, while illegal activities drive corruption and violence.

The findings have led to calls for actions to help stop illegal activities. Activists and researchers are asking for increased monitoring and protection of World Heritage sites. They’re also calling for more education, enforcement, prosecution and legislation, which will require public support and cooperation on a local to international level.

“Illegal wildlife trafficking robs the world of its natural heritage, threatens local communities and hampers global efforts to reduce poverty,” said Inger Andersen, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “This report is a sobering reminder of just how far this type of organized crime can reach, extending even into the supposed safety of World Heritage sites. This is a global challenge that can only be tackled through collective, international action.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Miss D
Shari F1 years ago

Just to add, the UK government has proposed adding Ancient Woodland and aged and veteran trees to the current list of policies that restrict development in England. Basically, they are considering making it illegal to try to build
houses on the forests that have existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Currently, these areas receive no legal protection at all. If you would like to support the move to ban this, then you can do so using this link: https://campaigns.woodlandtrust.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1743&ea.campaign.id=64023&utm_campaign=1765764_BM_B04_9759_Apr17_Camp_Enews_20170330&utm_medium=email&utm_source=woodlandtrust&utm_content=other&dm_i=2D76,11UH0,4Z94KM,34BG5,1

Melania P
Melania P2 years ago

Too many people, too much ignorance and greed; animals and the planet are paying the price. Ultimately we are killing ourselves, who is the stupidest species??

joan s
joan silaco2 years ago


Misss D
Shari F2 years ago

As I mentioned before, one way all of us can help to protect pristine areas is by not buying palm oil. But it's actually quite hard to avoid as a lot of the time, it's not labelled as palm oil. However, this handy PDF gives a list of names that palm oil may be hiding under. Read those labels! http://philadelphiazoo.org/unless-pdfs/Common-Names-for-Palm-Oil-and-Palm-Oil-Derivatives.htm

Terence Nelson
Terence Nelson2 years ago

While governments are more concerned with feathering their own nests and those of their cronies, nothing will improve. The 'new politics' should be looking out for the good of the country/people but this is, unfortunately, some ways off. The 1 - 5% still lead the rest by the nose and are happy to mortgage the future of the generations to come. The 21st century has seen a return with a vengeance to all that was the worst of the 19th century business model, together with a substantial dose of the 30's from the last century. Pessimistic? Not really, more like realistic. However, it would be nice to be wrong!

Jennifer H
Jennifer H2 years ago

You're right Elaine W..but with the current nasty US government that won't happen. It is all about money now. Not health, not life, not environment, not ESA. Just fill the pockets in any way possible no matter the cost.

Margie FOURIE2 years ago

Very sad. Leave these beautiful creatures.

Janet B
Janet B2 years ago


Will R
Will Rogers2 years ago

Has any western country ever kept a treaty with what they deem as their inferiors? They have been making agreements with African countries for centuries but it always seems to get worse! In the 70's there were 40,000 tigers. I gave money to help with their conservation. In the 80's there were 20,000 tigers. I gave more money. In the 90's there were only 10,000 and now there are only 5,000 tigers left in the wild. Was my money responsible for their destruction? Or is it just white interference? Because this was all before China was in Africa! China aren't the ones responsible for 500 years of destruction. They aren't responsible for the extinction of the passenger pigeon or the near extinction of the buffaloes. It seems everyone is to blame except for the Europeans, who we all know is really responsible - but it is difficult to say because it's hard to look in the mirror and and admit that it's the devil looking back at ya. But it's true. The only way to defeat ignorance and hatred is to be truthful. And while truth is sometimes an offence, it should not be ignored, but we will.