Environmental Threats

Statistics and information about criminal threats to the environment. Illegal logging, illegal fishing, smuggling and other environmental destruction committed by organized crime is collected from wildlife charities and public information sources.

The Treasury of the United Kingdom is estimated to be losing up to $38 Million (£25 Million) in duties each year to the theft of used cooking oil. The oil is being stolen from restaurants and converted into biodiesel. The unregulated fuel is then sold on the black market.

The cost to convert used cooking oil to biodiesel when done by legitimate companies is $1.89 (£1.24) per liter. When done illegally on the black market, the cost per liter drops to $0.30 (£0.20).

During an 11 month span between 2012 to 2013, Revenue and Customs Officials in the UK shut down 24 black market biodiesel factories.

Source:  Emma Forde, “Cooking oil theft ‘costs Treasury £25m a year in lost duty’,” BBC News, March 22, 2013.

Due to illegal fishing activities, the number of sea cucumbers in the waters of Mexico have been decreasing. In 2009, up to 20 tons of sea cucumbers were available. By 2013, the number dropped to 1,900 tons.

Fisherman in Mexico ca earn over $700 a day from harvesting sea cucumbers. The marine animals are then sent to China, where it is considered a delicacy. A pound of sea cucumber can be sold for $300.

(More information about the effects of illegal fishing.)

Source:  Karla Zabludovsky, “Quest for Illegal Gain at the Sea Bottom Divides Fishing Communities,” New York Times, March 19, 2013.

Between 50 to 90 percent of logging activities in tropical countries are done by criminal organizations, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

The areas where organized crime groups have a strong presence in the logging industry is in the Amazon basin, Central Africa and South East Asia.

Source:  Achim Steiner, “Opening Statement of the Executive Director of UNEP,” Sixteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, March 3, 2013.

Pangolins were being sold on the black market in Asia at prices as high as $1,000 for the entire pangolin.

The pangolin is considered to be a delicacy in Asia and is scales are used for various medicinal purposes.

In a span of 18 months, intelligence reports claim that a criminal trafficking organization in Malaysia captured 22,000 pangolin to sell on the black market.

In Vietnam, between 40,000 to 60,000 pangolins were believed to have been caught by traffickers in 2011.

(Additional prices of exotic pets for sale.)

Source: Audrey Garric, “Pangolins under threat as black market trade grows,” Guardian, March 12, 2013.

Research by wildlife protection organizations have estimated that 60 percent of the world’s forest elephant population was killed by poachers between 2002 to 2012.

Up to 25,000 elephants were being killed each year in Africa, with the Congo Rainforest in Central Africa being particularity bad in terms of poaching.

Source:  Jeremy Hance, “Prayers for dying elephants: Buddhists hold prayer ceremony for elephants decimated by poachers,” Mongabay.com, March 11, 2013.


Security officials at Mumbai International Airport in India arrested a man from attempting to smuggled 97 tortoises in his luggage.

The man told security officials that he was paid $300 to travel with the bags to Bangkok, Thailand.

Source:  “Tortoise smuggling plan foiled at Mumbai airport,” News Track India, March 10, 2013.

According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme, at least 22,218 great apes have been lost to wildlife traffickers between 2005 and 2012.

The nearly 3,000 great apes lost each year have been either killed, sold, or died in captivity.

64 percent of the apes that have been lost have been chimpanzees.

According to the report, live chimpanzees are available for sale by wildlife traffickers for as little as $50. There has also been a report of a zoo in Malaysia purchasing a gorilla for $400,000.

(Exotic animals for sale on the black market.)

Source: “Illicit trade in great apes increasingly linked to organized crime, UN report finds,” UN News Centre, March 4, 2013.

Between 2009 to 2012, customs agents and other law enforcement agencies at Bangkok airport seized a total haul of 7 tons of ivory that was being smuggled into the country. The value of the ivory was estimated to be worth at least $7 Million.

Over 70 cargo flights land at Bangkok airport each day.

Source:  David Shukman, “Lab bids to combat species smuggling,” BBC News, March 4, 2013.

Customs in India seized $9.1 Million (500 Million Indian Rupees) worth of gold from smugglers during the April to October 2012 time period. The amount of gold seized during that time period was higher than the $2.7 Million (150 Million Rupees) seized in 2011.

Economic Intelligence Agencies in India state that gold smuggling and the avoidance of tax payments have contributed to lost revenue.

Source:  PTI, “Customs, intelligence agencies raise vigil to check gold smuggling,” Economic Times, March 3, 2013.

At the weekend market of Jatujak Plaza in Bangkok, Thailand,  many live animals are for sale to the public. According to a report by Al Jazeera, thousands of dogs, cats, rabbits, mice and guinea pigs are offered for sale.

In addition to the typical pets, exotic animals and protected endangered species are also openly available for sale by stall operators. For example, the reporter was offered a leopard tortoise for sale in the market for $403 (12,000 Thai Baht.) The vendor was unable to explain how to smuggle the tortoise back home.

(Complete list of exotic pets for sale on the black market.)

Source:  Kate Mayberry, “In the market for wildlife,” Al Jazeera, Asia Blog, March 3, 2013.