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.

An article by the Daily Express in the UK reported on the black market trade in valuable and rare orchids, and the prices that buyers purchase these flowers.

A rare Lady’s Slipper orchid, which is so rare that it is given police protection, was found on a golf course in the North of England. The flower was once thought to be extinct. It has been difficult to reintroduce the flower in other areas, creating a high demand for the flower. The flower reportedly can be bought for $8,358 (£5,000) each.

The Gold of Inabalu orchid can only be found in Malaysia, is sold for $5,850 (£3,500).

Peruvian orchids, which were discovered in 2001, were found to have be available for sale in the United States for $11,701 (£3,500).

The plant and flower trade is increasing in popularity around the world, leading to an increase in illegal cutting of flowers and other thefts. In the United Kingdom, theft from private gardens increased by 20 percent between 2008 and 2013.

(Prices of exotic animals for sale.)

There are 36,000 endangered plants and species around the world. Nearly 30,000 are from the orchid family.

The legal plant trade generates about $15 Billion (£9 Billion) a year.

Source:  Adrian Lee, “The black market for green fingers: Illegal trade in rare plants reaches startling scale,” Daily Express, February 18, 2014.

Illegal logging activities was the top economic related crime in Laos in 2013, according to media reports.

Out of a total of 559 fraud or economic related crimes reported in Laos, 257 cases were related to illegal logging, or 46 percent of all cases.

During the investigations, security services seized 671,000 cubic meters of processed wood, 4.5 million cubic meters of logs, 15 chainsaws, 20 vehicles and 3 motorbikes. A total of $550,000 in cash was also recovered.

Laos has 24 protected national forests across the country.

Source:  “Illegal Logging Tops Economic Crime In Laos Last Year,” Bernama, February 18, 2014.

According to ProFauna, a wildlife charity, wildlife traffickers are offering wildlife for sale on websites catering to customers in Indonesia.

On the popular Indonesian forum site Kaskus, the NGO found at least 220 advertisements of wildlife for sale in the month of January 2014. Based on an analysis of the advertisements, researchers were able to identify at least 22 various types of rare wildlife and products. Among the wildlife animals available for purchase included sea turtles, elephant ivory, lemurs, tiger skins, cockatoo, and anteaters.

The lemur was being offered for sale for $16.80.

(More prices of exotic animals for sale.)

The traders who offer these animals come from various areas of the country.

Indonesia is not the only country where wildlife is available for sale. Previous reports mentioned that animals were being sold online to customers in Dubai and China.

Source:  Indra Harsaputra, “Govt told to block websites selling wildlife,” Jakarta Post, February 14, 2014.

According to wildlife protection officials in California, poaching of animals in the state is active as the animals are taken to be sold in the illegal wildlife market.

California’s Fish and Game Commission stated that abalone, black bear parts and sturgeon are the top products that are poached in California. Other wildlife such as deer, reptiles and shark fins are also poached and sold on the black market in California. In the southern county of San Diego, lobster is a popular item for poachers.  In an example, a man was caught in December 2013 for selling lobsters illegally on Craigslist.

(Price of exotic animals for sale.)

Source:  Deborah Sullivan Brennan, “Black market for wildlife thriving online,” UT San Diego, February 11, 2014.

In a single week at the start of 2014, security officials in the African nation of Togo seized nearly four tonnes of ivory at nation’s main port.

While searching a cargo ship headed to Vietnam, authorities discovered nearly 1.7 tonnes of elephant ivory. After further searches, an additional 2.1 tonnes of ivory was discovered.

In 2013, government security agencies at the port seized 700 kilograms of ivory that mostly originated from Chad.

Nearly 100 elephants are killed each day by poachers looking for their tusks. Back in 1900, there were an estimated 10 million elephants in the wild. In 2014, wildlife charities estimate that there are roughly 500,000 elephants remaining.

(More information about elephant poaching here.)

Source:  AFP, “Togo intensifies crackdown on ivory trafficking,” Google News, February 3, 2014.


In 2010, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department investigated 160 cases of illegal wildlife sales on the black market.

In 2013, the number of wildlife trafficking cases investigated by the department increased to 200.

Among the wildlife items seized by authorities included reticulated pythons, anacondas, sting rays and piranhas. Many of the buyers are looking for exotic pets, while others are simply looking to make a profit selling the animals.

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

Selling exotic wildlife in Texas is a misdemeanor, which means that a seller convicted of selling exotic animals rarely goes to jail. The typical fine for selling illegal animals in Texas is between $25 to $500.

The entire black market in wildlife trafficking is estimated to be worth $19 Billion.

Source:  Andy Pierrotti, “Illegal wildlife trade increasing in Texas,” KVUE Austin, February 3, 2014.

According to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, a total of 1,004 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2013. The rate of poaching has continued to increase each year.

668 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2012.

341 rhinos were killed in 2011.

333 rhinos were killed in 2010.

122 rhinos were killed in 2009.

Wildlife protection officials state that the rhinos are killed by poachers for their horns.

(Prices on exotic animals for sale.)

Source:  Christine Dell’Amore, “1,000+ Rhinos Poached in 2013: Highest in Modern History,” National Geographic, January 17, 2014.

Data from the Wildlife Protection Society of India shows that 48 tigers were killed by poachers in India in 2013. The number of tigers killed was higher than the 32 tigers poached in 2012.

Officials with wildlife charities state that demand for traditional medicine in China is behind the recent rise in tiger poaching in India. Despite the incrase in poaching, the Bengal tiger population in India has been rising due to increase protection efforts. Back in 2008, there were 1,411 tigers in India. In the last official census, there were 1,706 tigers.

(More wildlife trafficking statistics.)

There are around 2,500 Bengal tigers around the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

(Illegal wildlife trade prices.)

Source:  Kenneth Rapoza, “Chinese Health Nuts ‘Biggest Threat’ To India’s Bengal Tigers,” Forbes, January 5, 2014.

According to wildlife charities, nearly 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers. The poachers kill the elephants in order to cut off the elephant’s tusks. Ivory tusks with elaborate carvings on them can be sold for up to $3,000 per kilogram on the global black market.

70 percent of the demand for ivory is centered in China.

In 1980, there were 1.2 million elephants in Africa. At the start of 2014, due to poaching, wildlife officials estimate that there are around 500,000 elephants remaining.

(Prices of exotic animals for sale)

Source:  Sophie Brown and Susan Wang, “China crushes tons of illegal ivory,” CNN, January 6, 2014.

(See more information about elephant poaching.)

From 1990 to 2012, over 10 million tons of waste is believed to have been collected by Mafia groups in Italy and burned at illegal trash sites, according to environmental group Legambiente.

Criminal justice programs in  Italy reported 82 investigations of the mafia and the arrest of over 900 members. 443 waste collection companies have were also investigated during this time.

In certain areas surrounding Naples where many illegal dumping sites are located, the cancer rates of its residents has increased by as much as 50 percent. 

(What is racketeering? Learn more about organized crime rackets.)

In addition to the health risks, industries in Italy are losing market share as customers become concerned about leakage from the trash dumping. The Mozzarella industry saw a drop of 30 percent in sales for November 2013 as a result from trash concerns, representing a loss of $27.5 Million.

In 2012, the Italian Mafia is estimated to have made $1.2 Billion from illegal waste dumping.

To legitimately dispose of trash costs about $826 per ton.

Source:  Silvia Marchetti, “The New Vesuvius Smothers Italy’s Prime Products,” Newsweek, January 1, 2014.