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 Gila Monster is one of two venomous lizards that are found in North America.

Wildlife Officials in the US state of Arizona report that wildlife traffickers are able to sell these lizards for up to $1,500 on the black market.

(More exotic pets for sale on the black market.)

Source:  Peter Haden, “Poachers hunt Arizona reptiles for black market sales,” Arizona Daily Star, November 28, 2013.

In Cambodia, one of the most popular wildlife that was trafficked in 2013 was the pangolin. According to wildlife conservation officials, the meat of a pangolin is sold on the black market for $300 per kilogram. The pangolin’s scales, which is used for medicinal purposes, is sold for $3,000 per kilogram.

Across Asia, the average price to buy a pangolin for sale is $1,000.

In the first nine months of 2013, wildlife officials in Cambodia seized over 2,000 live animals and over 2,300 dead animals while arresting 125 wildlife traffickers. Back in 2001, officials were seizing around 4,400 live animals such as elephants, tigers and bears.

Experts state that the decline in seizures is caused because the population of those animals have been declining due to poaching.

(See all prices of exotic animals kept as pets.)

Source:  Stuart White, “Animal trade down,” Phnom Penh Post, November 27, 2013.

Environmental activists estimate that up to 80 percent of the timber that is processed in Vietnam was smuggled into the country from Cambodia and Laos. It is also alleged that the Vietnamese military assists in the smuggling of illegal timber.

The amount timber estimated to be smuggled into Vietnam in 2013 was higher than the 48 percent estimate made by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2010.

Source:  Marianne Brown, “EU timber policy slows illegal logging in Vietnam,” Deutsche Welle, November 26, 2013.

Between 2001 and 2011, Chinese fishing boats caught an estimated 3.1 million tonnes of fish off the coast of Africa. 80 percent of the catch was unreported and fell under the illegal fishing framework.

The catch from Africa makes up most of the 4.6 million tons of fish that were caught by Chinese vessels between the time period. During the ten year span, the value of the fish was worth $12 Billion.

In addition to Africa, boats from China are active in the waters off South Korea. 4,605 cases of illegal fishing by Chinese boats have been recorded by South Korean security services between 2003 and 2013.

Source:  Christina Larson. “China’s Illegal Fishing Expeditions Threaten World Waters,” Bloomberg Businessweek, November 19, 2013.

The winning purse of a cockfighting match in Los Angeles, California can be as high as $15,000, according to sheriff officials.

In 2010, up to 400 roosters were seized during illegal gambling raids in the San Bernadino area of California. In addition to the roosters, 43 people were prosecuted for running illegal cockfighting rings.

On average, about 100 people are arrested for cockfighting rings in California each year.

(More profits and earnings from under the table activities here.)

Source:  Sandra Endo, “Illegal Animal Fights on the Rise in LA,” My Fox LA, November 19, 2013.


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 charities 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 government 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.

(Information about illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.)

Source:  Analia Murias, “One million tonnes of anchovy illegally fished, according to SNP,” FIS, November 8, 2013.