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.

According to media reports, security agents in Thailand killed at least 69 loggers from Cambodia in 2013 who were attempting to illegally cut down timber in Thailand.

The rate of violence between loggers and security and environmental protection officials in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar have increased in recent years due to the demand for luxury furniture in China. The Siamese rosewood, which is found in the Mekong area, is used to make high-end furniture in China. Between 2000 and 2014, an estimated $2.4 Billion worth of precious timber has been imported to China to meet the demand. The Siamese rosewood is sold for thousands of dollars per cubic meter, with illegal loggers able to make hundreds of dollars per day cutting down the trees.

(All illegal logging statistics.)

Source:  AFP, “China demand for luxury furniture ‘decimating rosewood’,” GlobalPost, May 12, 2014.

The seafood and fishing industry in Pakistan loses at least $50 Million a year to tuna fish smuggling, according to the WWF-Pakistan.

Nearly 200 tons of tuna is illegally smuggled into Iran each day through the Gwadar port of Balochistan.

Yellow fin tun is sold in Pakistan for up to $2 per kilogram.

(See more illegal tuna fishing statistics here.)

Source:  “Smuggling of tuna fish to Iran costs $50 million yearly,” Business Recorder, May 13, 2014.

Security agencies in Costa Rica reported seizing about 4.8 metric tons of cocaine along the countries Pacific Coast during the first 4 months of 2014.

In all of 2013, security forces seized 18 metric tons of cocaine along the Pacific coast.

(Additional facts about cocaine.)

In addition to cocaine trafficking, the Public Security Ministry is also monitoring illegal fishing activities in the waters surrounding Costa Rica. Four vessels that was conducting unauthorized fishing activities were seized in the first quarter of 2013. A total of 9 ships were seized for illegal fishing in 2013.

(More crime in Costa Rica statistics.)

Source:  Mario Garita, “Radar helps combat drug trafficking, illegal fishing,” Inside Costa Rica, May 1, 2014.

According to wildlife conservation groups, up to $1 Billion worth of illegally grown python skins are being imported into Europe each year. The black market trade in python skins helping to meet the demand for python skin handbags sold by Gucci and other luxury brands.

The legal market for python skins has grown from $137 Million (€100 Million) in 2005 to $1 Billion in 2014.

Although there are commercial farms growing python skins in Asia, industry officials believe that most of the skins being exported from Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia could have been collected from the black market.

(More exotic animals for sale prices.)

Source:  Sarah Butler, “Illegal python skins feed hunger for fashionable handbags and shoes,” Guardian, March 31, 2014.

Police in France broke up a black market smuggling ring that was providing frog legs to Chefs across France.

The three men were found with nearly 1,100 illegally grown frogs for the purpose of cutting of their legs to sell to restaurants. Criminal justice officials state that the amount of frog legs that the men had would have been worth $666 (£400) on the black market.

According to food industry sources, a dozen pairs of frogs legs are sold for $11 (£7) to French Chefs. Up to 100 million pairs of frog legs are eaten every year.

(More prices of exotic wildlife for sale on the black market.)

Source:  Emma Glanfield, “Poaching gang caught slicing off frogs’ legs and selling them to French chefs on the black market,” Daily Mail, March 27, 2014.


According to criminal justice programs and wildlife charities, a kilogram of ivory poached from elephants is available for sale in Asia at prices of $850 (€650). In 2011, over $31 Million worth of ivory tusks was smuggled from Eastern Africa to Asia, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

A large portion of the poaching of elephants and rhinos take place in Kenya. Security services in the region state that organized groups of poachers use night vision goggle, automatic weapons and chainsaws to kill rhinos and elephants and to quickly remove the horns and tusks.

Intelligence by wildlife charities and advocates state that the poaching in Kenya is done by a core group of 20 to 30 people.

(More statistics on elephant poaching.)

(More statistics on rhino poaching.)

Source:  AFP, “Counting the cost of East Africa’s poaching economy,” Google News, March 24,2014.

The Financial Services Commission in South Korea reported that 110 tons of gold is traded in the country each year. Out of the total gold trade, about 70 tons of gold bullion is traded on the black market.

The value of the black market gold in South Korea is estimated to be about $3 Billion (3.3 Trillion South Korean Won). The Government of South Korea loses an estimated $280 Million in tax revenue from the gold smuggling.

In 2013, criminal justice programs across the country seized 360 kilograms of gold as it was being smuggled into the country. The number of busts conducted by Customs officers doubled in 2013 when compared to 2012.

The Korea Precious Metals Distributors’ Associated states that buying smuggling gold on the black market can be up to 7 percent cheaper than buying gold through proper channels.

Financial and tax experts in South Korea state that many people buy gold bars in order to hide income.

Source:  Heesu Lee, “Korea Exchange Seeks a Cut of $3 Billion Illegal Gold Trade,” Blooomberg Businessweek, March 24, 2014.

A report released by China’s Public Security Bureau for Forests and the University of Oxford found that the average price for a kilogram of pangolin scales is available for sale for $600. The price of a kilo of pangolin scales for sale in 2013 was twice the amount that a kilogram of scales were sold for in 2008.

According to the report, 2.59 tonnes of scales were seized in China between 2010 and 2013. The scales represented approximately 4,870 pangolins that were killed in order to produce those scales. In addition to the scales, 259 intact pangolin were seized during the time period.

One method of pangolin smuggling highlighted by the report was through the use of China’s postal system. In one case discovered in November 2013, security services discovered 5 packages of pangolin scales weighing 70 kilos each were being sent through the postal system. It was later discovered that up to one tonne of scales, representing 1,660 pangolins, were shipped through China’s postal system by wildlife smugglers.

The pangolin is in high demand across Asia due to its use as a traditional medicine. According to the BBC, consumers roast the pangolin scales and then eat the scales with the belief that its helps detoxify the body and stimulate lactation.

Across Asia, a full pangolin for sale is available on the black market for $1,000.

(See more prices of exotic animals for sale.)

Source:  Ella Davies, “‘Shocking’ scale of pangolin smuggling revealed,” BBC Nature News, March 14, 2014.

Oil company Royal Dutch Shell reported that its earnings for 2013 was almost $1 Billion lower due to oil theft and other acts of sabotage that occurs in Nigeria.

Shell’s Chief Financial Officer stated that nearly $1 Billion worth of oil is stolen from the oil industry each month across Nigeria. In 2011, the Nigerian government lost an estimated $7 Billion in tax revenue due to oil theft. The amount of tax revenue lost was roughly equal to 25 percent of the Nigeria’s national budget for 2013.

Source:  Eduard Gismatullin, “Seplat Sees No Oil Theft in Nigeria, Where Shell Lost $1 Billion,” Bloomberg Businessweek, March 14, 2014.

According to criminal justice officials, as of March 2014 an estimated 700 kilograms of gold is being smuggled into India every day.

Between March 2013 and March 2014, the rate of gold smuggling to India has increased by nearly 300 percent, according to the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council. Officials state that the smuggling rate is the highest it has been in over two decades.

The high smuggling activities were caused by a rise in the duty of imported gold jewelery. Between March and December 2013, security services seized $41.18 Million (2,500 Million Indian Rupees) worth of gold at airports and entry ports across India. In the previous fiscal year, just 500 Million Rupees worth of gold was seized.

Source:  Shantanu Guha Ray, “Why gold smuggling is on the rise in India,” BBC News, March 13, 2014.