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.

Security services in Mexico state that the organized crime group Knights Templar have made millions of dollars in the state of Michoacan by extorting local mines.

The group, which primarily makes its money from drug trafficking, forces local mine operators to pay between $4 to $7 per tonne of minerals that is extracted in the area. In 2013, the shipment of iron ore totaled 4 million tonnes, compared to the 1.5 million tonnes extracted in 2012.

Intelligence officials also report that the Knights Templar is trading iron ore with China in return for chemical precursors that are used to make synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine.

(How much does crystal meth cost?)

Source:  ” Why Mexican drug-traffickers started smuggling iron ore to China,” Economist, March 9 2014.

In 2013, an estimated $6 Billion worth of coal was stolen from mines in Indonesia, according to industry sources.

In one mine operated by PT Bumi Resources, up to two million metric tons of coal is stolen by illegal miners and operators. At the prices of March 2014, the value of coal stolen from this mine would be about $150 Million per month.

The amount of coal being stolen  every three days in the province of South Kalimantan is enough to fill a vessel almost the size of the Chrysler Building in New York City.

Source:  Jesse Risborough, “Indonesia’s $6 Billion of Coal Mine Thefts Said to Widen,” Bloomberg, March 5, 2014.

The Wildlife Conservation Office in Thailand released its figures of the number of wildlife and animals that it seized from wildlife traffickers in 2013.

According to the department, about 10,700 live animals, 1,348 carcasses of dead animals, and 3,293 kilograms of various animals parts were seized from wildlife traffickers in Thailand in 2013.

642 people involved in the illegal wildlife trade was also arrested in 2013.

Criminal justice officials reported that Sunda pangolins, squirrels, elephants, tigers and gibbons were the most seized animals in Thailand in 2013.

(More prices of exotic animals for sale.)

Source:  Pongphon Samsamak, “Up to 10,000 smuggled animals seized in past year,” The Nation, March 4, 2014.

Between 1982 to 2012, an estimated 80 million cubic meters of wood was illegally logged in Romania, according to the Minister Delegate for Water and Forests. The illegal logging activities caused $6.8 Million (€5 Billion) in damage.

From 2007 to 2012, the rate of the illegal logging in Romania doubled, with illegal logging now occurring at twice the rate of reforestation and regeneration.

The legal timber industry in Romania is worth $5.5 Billion (€4 Billion).

Source:  AFP, “Massive logging leaves deep scars in Eastern Europe,” Google News, February 23, 2014.

Paleontologists have reported that there is an active black market where traffickers provide customers dinosaur fossils for sale. The customers, who are usually in the high-income bracket, purchase dinosaur fossils as a collectable items or as artwork.

In certain countries where dinosaur fossils are known to be buried, the buying and selling of the remains is illegal. However, in certain countries, such as the United States allows for a commercial market in fossils. Yet, in the United States, it is illegal to take dinosaur fossils from public lands and then sell them to the public.

In a case from 2012, an American man pleaded guilty for smuggling fossils from Mongolia. The man was attempting to sell a 70 million year old Tyrannosaurus Bataar. The dinosaur’s fossils were valued at $15,000, but was set to be sold for $1 Million at an auction before US officials shut down the sale and returned the fossils to Mongolia.

The illegal dinosaur fossil seller also sold a Sauroplus angustirostris skeleton for $75,000.

Experts believe that the black market in dinosaur fossils took off after the bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex was sold to a Chicago museum at a 1997 auction for $8.26 Million.

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

Source:  Erik Ortiz, “Fossil Theft Raises Concerns About Bustling Black Market,” NBC News, February 21, 2014.


Over 42,000 marine turtles are estimated to be legally caught each year around the world. Nearly three quarters of those turtles are caught in the waters of Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua, and Australia, according to a study conducted by wildlife charity Blue Ventures Conservations and the Univetsity of Exeter.

80 percent of the turtles that are caught each year are green turtles.

Between the 1980s and 2014, over 2 million turtles are estimated to have been caught worldwide.

In Mexico, between 2000 and 2014, an estimated 65,000 turtles have been illegally caught and fished in the waters surrounding the country.

(Price of exotic pets for sale.)

Source:  Allison Winter, “Report Finds 42,000 Turtles Harvested Each Year by Legal Fisheries,” Environmental News Network, February 21, 2014.

According to international experts, $250 Million worth of timber is illegally logged in Mozambique each year. The amount of timber that is illegally cut down in the country accounts for nearly two-thirds of all logging activities in Mozambique.

Between 2000 and 2012, over two million hectares of forest has been cut down in Mozambique.

(More illegal logging statistics.)

Source:  “Illegal logging surges in Mozambique,” Mongabay.com, February 25, 2014.

In an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, a team of oil thieves stated that they are able to make up to $6,098 (1 Million Nigerian Naira) a day from stealing oil from pipelines.

The thieves steal oil from pipeline managed and operated by multinational oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell. The oil thieves cut through the pipelines with saws and siphon the oil into barrerls. The oil is then brought to illegal refiners located across Nigeria.

The refining process at these illegal refiners takes about six hours. The crude oil is boiled in a drum, cooled by water, and then stored in another container. The oil is then filtered into gasoline, kerosene and diesel. Any left over unfiltered oil is simply tossed into the water.

An average sized illegal refinery in the Nigerian Delta can make over $1 Million a month refining stolen oil.

Source:  Alexis Okeowo, “Oil Thieves of the Niger Delta,” Bloomberg Businessweek, February 20, 2014.

According to data released by Mexican state owned oil company Pemex, 2,614 illegal fuel siphons were discovered on their pipes in 2013. The theft from their pipes lead to losses of gasoline, oil, natural gas and petrochemicals.

Back in 2000, the oil company discovered 155 illegal fuel siphons, which means that the rate of fuel theft at Pemex has increased by 1,548 percent in 13 years.

Based on the number of siphons, an attempt to steal oil and fuel from the pipelines took place at a rate of every 14 hours in 2013.

In the border state of Tamaulipas, there were 8 illegal siphons in 2000. In 2013, the company discovered 539 siphons.

In the sate of Veracruz, there were 25 siphons in 2000 and 240 in 2013.

In the state of Jalisco, the siphons increased from 7 in 2000 to 230 in 2013.

In the state of Guanajuato, the siphons went from 13 in 2000 to 165 in 2013.

And in Nuevo Leon, fuel siphons from pipelines went form 1 in 2000 to 140 in 2013.

Security analysts and oil industry officials state that areas where drug trafficking cartels are active see more fuel siphons.

Source:  “Major Increase Of Illegal Oil Siphoning In Mexico Leads To Losses In The Millions,” Fox News Latino, February 5, 2014.

An estimated 8,125 pangolins were confiscated by wildlife officials in 49 incidents that took place across 13 countries.

Using an estimate that seizures represent 10 to 20 percent of the total wildlife trafficking market, media reports state that up to 40,625 to 81,250 pangolins were possibly killed in 2013.

Pangolin is an wildlife animal in high demand across Southeast Asia. To buy a pangolin on the black market across Asia costs about $1,000.

(More illegal exotic animals for sale.)

Source:  Rhishja Cota-Larson, “Pangolins Roll into the Wildlife Trafficking Spotlight,” National Geographic, News Watch, February 18, 2014.