Between April 2012 to April 2013, security services in the United Kingdom conducted over 675 seizures of wildlife items that were being trafficked into the country.
The following is a small sample of the contraband items that were seized:
- 326 items made with ivory.
- Rhino horn that was worth $1.6 Million (£1 Million).
- 466 Hermann’s tortoises
- 750 kilograms of coral form Vietnam
- Monkey Skulls
- A Rolls Royce upholstered with alligator skin.
- 126,000 pots of a weight-loss pill and 15,120 pots of a sports supplement for using rare orchids as ingredients.
(More prices of animals sold on the black market.)
Source: Victoria Turk, “Bear Bile, Seahorses, and Tortoise Jelly: The UK Had a Record Year for Wildlife Busts,” Motherboard, November 16, 2013.
In 2013, wildlife organizations launched educational campaigns that aimed to lower the consumption of shark fin. Fisherman would cut the fins off of sharks in order to be used in soups that were served in high-end restaurants in Hong Kong and China. The results of the campaigns have been very successful, as many restaurants no longer serve shark fin soup.
Due to the lower demand for shark fin, fisherman who made their living in the Asia Pacific region have seen their income drop. According to media reports, fisherman who caught shark fins previously made several hundred dollars per month. In late 2013, as the demand for shark fin declines, the fisherman are now only earning between $37 to $46 per month (40 to 50 Australian Dollars).
In order to find new incomes, many of the fisherman are turning to human smuggling. Reports indicate that fisherman in Indonesia are using their boats to transports asylum seekers to Australia. A captain of a human smuggling boat can earn up to $2,327 (2,500 AUD). The crew members of the smuggling boat can earn between $930 to $1,396 (1,000 to 1,500 AUD).
(More prices and fees for human smugglers.)
Source: Kate Evans, “Drop in shark fin prices lures people smugglers,” ABC Radio Australia, November 14, 2013.
A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) states that the Indonesian government has lost over $7 Billion in revenue from 2007 to 2011 due to illegal logging activities and corruption.
In 2011 alone, the estimated lost revenue was over $2 Billion, which HRW stated is more than the government’s entire budget for the health department.
In an example of corruption in Indonesia, one policeman made nearly $1 Million by helping protect illegal loggers and fuel smugglers in the region.
Source: Berni Moestafa, “Forest Misuse Costs Indonesia $7 Billion in Revenue, Report Says,” Bloomberg, November 10, 2013.
Officials with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service state that a pound of rhino horns sells for over $5,000 pounds in the United States. From the US, the horn is smuggled into China and Vietnam where it is used for various purposes such as hang-over cures.
In Vietnam, crushed rhino horn was being sold for $10 per shot. The Associated Press reported that the rhino horn was more costly than cocaine in Vietnam.
(More illegal wildlife trade prices here.)
Source: Michael Wilson, “Rhino Horns: a) Increase Potency; b) Cure Cancer; or c) Bring a Prison Term,” New York Times, November 8, 2013.
The head of the National Fisheries Society in Peru stated that up to one million tonnes of anchovy is illegally caught in the country each year.
There are up to six million tonnes of anchovy that is caught in Peru each year, with one million being illegally fished.
The fishing industry is the second largest economic activity in Peru behind mining and employs 230,000 people.
Source: Analia Murias, “One million tonnes of anchovy illegally fished, according to SNP,” FIS, November 8, 2013.
In towns surrounding the city of Naples in Italy, the cancer rate has increased by nearly 50 percent in the past two decades. Health officials and security agencies are attributing the rise in tumors to illegal toxic waste dumping activities conducted by the Mafia.
The Itallian mafia won contracts to dispose of toxic waste, yet simply dumped the materials in illegal, unauthorized sites. According to released documents, millions of tons of nucler waste from Germany was dumped on farms, lakes and caves near Naples.
The toxic materials infected the surrounding environment, causing cancer rates in increase. In the last two decades, the cancer rates for men in the region increased by 47 percent and increased 40 percent for women.
Source: David Harding, “Mafia’s dumping of toxic waste blamed for high cancer rates in Italy,” New York Daily News, November 3, 2013.
The Attorney General of Peru stated that $10 Billion in illicit funds was laundered in the country in 2012, double the estimated $5 Billion that was laundered in 2011. The money laundering activity that takes place in Peru accounts for 3.5 percent of the country’s GDP.
One new black market crime that is contributing to the funds is extortion. Gangs in a northern city collected over $900,000 in extortion fees between 2012 and 2013 from 14,000 taxi drivers. The funds were deposited into 150 different bank accounts.
According to Insight Crime, other major black market activities in Peru including drug trafficking, which generates up to $1.2 Billion a year, and illegal logging, a $500 Million industry.
Source: Marguerite Cawley, “Growth of Extortion a Major Concern for Peru: Official,” Insight Crime, October 31, 2013.
According to a marijuana eradication task force in Fresno County, officials has identified over 500 illegal marijuana plantations growing in the Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon in Central California in the first 10 months of 2013. Security officials seized nearly 2,400 marijuana plants, over double the number of plants seized in all of 2012.
Environmental and wildlife officials are concerned about the use of pesticides by the marijuana growers. Using a poison called second generation anticoagulant rodenticide (SGAR), the growers use the chemical to keep wild animals from eating their marijuana plants. A quarter teaspoon of the pesticide has enough poison to kill a 500 pond lion, yet marijuana farmers are using up to 50 times that amount on their plants. Officials has found two endangered spotted owls that have been exposed to the chemical, along with 6 endangered Pacific Fisher mammals who have died consuming the pesticide.
Source: Elyce Kirchner, Julie Putnam, and Jeremy Carroll, “Poisoned Parks: Illegal Marijuana Growers Leave National Parks Trashed, Animals Dead,” NBC Bay Area, November 1, 2013.