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.

In 2012, environmental officials in England shut down 1,279 illegal waste dumping sites, roughly 25 sites each week.  One in twenty of the illegal waste dumps contain asbestos in the waste, and one in five illegal dumps contained chemicals, oil or fuel.

171 people were prosecuted for waste crimes in 2012.

The number of illegal dump sites closed by authorities in 2012 was up from the 759 that were shut down the year before.

Security officials estimate that illegal waste crime costs about $1.59 Billion (£1 Billion) to legitimate waste companies and tax revenue to the Treasury.

Source:  Fiona Harvey, “Waste crime crackdown shuts 25 illegal sites a week,” Guardian, October 13, 2013.

Rebels with the March 23 Movement (M23) in the Democratic Republic of Congo smuggled 12 tons of gold worth $500 Million a year, according to US based NGO Enough Project.

The gold is smuggled from illegal mines into neighboring Uganda and Burundi, where it is then sold to brokers in the United Arab Emirates. The gold is then shipped to global gold centers such as Switzerland and India.

Source:  “M23 Rebels in DRC Using Illegal Gold to Finance Rebellion,” Voice of America, October 10, 2013.

From 2003 to 2013, there have been 4,605 cases of illegal fishing taking place within the waters of South Korea by Chinese boats.

Out of the total number of illegal fishing cases, 3,228 cases were in violation by Chinese boats of fishing agreements made between the two countries. Since 2004, there have been 1,062 boats from China cited by South Korean authorities for illegal fishing.

In the first 9 months of 2013, there has been 266 boats seized or cited for unlicensed fishing in South Korea.

69 security officials have been killed or injured during the 10 year span battling illegal fishing.

Source:  Yonhap, “Illegal Chinese fishing in S. Korean waters total 4,600 cases over past decade,” Global Post, October 7, 2013.

The World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia reported that smugglers are profiting from the price difference in sea turtle eggs in Indonesia and Malaysia.

In Indonesia, the price of a single turtle egg at local markets costs $0.13 (1,500 Indonesian Rupiah). In Malaysia, the price of a single turtle egg is $0.23 (2,600 Rupiah).

Turtle egg smuggling has been an issue facing nature protection officials in Indonesia. Around 2,000 green turtles nest at one beach in Indonesia each year. In 2009, wildlife activities reported that 2,146 turtle nests had eggs taken from them. After local police increased surveillance, the percent of looted nests decreased to 26 percent in 2011 and 22 percent in 2012.

In 2013, egg smuggling has increased in the villages of Sebubus and Temajuk, where the number of nests ransacked increased by 40 percent and 95 percent.

(Prices of the illegal wildlife trade.)

Source:  Severianus Endi, “Sea turtle egg smuggling on the rise,” Jakarta Post, October 6, 2013.

According to the Elephant Action League, the Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab funds up to 40 percent of their operations with the proceeds from ivory trafficking.

The group was responsible for the September 2013 attack on a Kenyan mall in September 2013.

Ivory trafficking across Africa contributed to the deaths of over 30,000 elephants in 2012. The biggest global market for ivory is in China, where a kilogram of ivory can sell for around $3,000 a kilo.

Poachers who kill the elephant in Africa earn between $50 to $100 per kilogram for the ivory.

(Prices of endangered species on the black market.)

Source:  Catruna Stewart, “Illegal ivory trade funds al-Shabaab’s terrorist attacks,” Independent, October 6, 2013.


In 2011, around $3 Billion in gold that was illegally mined in Peru was exported out of the country.

International monitors estimate that over 20 percent of gold mining activities in the country is done illegally. In the region of Madre de Dios, up to 97 percent of the mining is done by unauthorized miners. Many of the illegal mines employ children, as tens of thousands of children are believed to be working in the mines.

Source:  Roberto A. Ferdman, “Peru exports more illegal gold than cocaine, and it’s the world’s biggest exporter of cocaine,” Quartz, September 30, 2013.

According to government statistics, over 43 million kilograms of jade was produced in Myanmar during the fiscal 2011 to 2012 year. Based on a conservative estimate by Reuters, the jade would have been worth $4.3 Billion. Less than 1 percent, or $34 Million worth of jade was officially reported to have been exported out of the country.

Financial and security analysts claim that nearly half of the jade ends up being smuggled into China. The jade is smuggled by truck through territory controlled by the Myanmar military or the Kachin Independence Army. Both groups collect a tax from the smuggled jade from black market sales that contributes to the conflict between the military and the KIA.

Source:  Andrew R.C. Marshall and Min Zayar Oo, “Special Report: Myanmar old guard clings to $8 billion jade empire,” Reuters, September 29, 2013.

Criminal fuel smuggling costs the government of Honduras $230 Million, or 10 percent of its annual fuel imports. Economic and finance officials state that smugglers purchase fuel in Venezuela where it is heavily subsided by the government. The smugglers then transport the fuel illegally into Honduras.

Source:  Charles Parkinson, “Fuel Trafficking Costs Honduras $230 Mn per Year,” Insight Crime, September 27, 2013.

Security officers with oil company Pertamina in Indonesia state that up to $22 Million (250 Billion Indonesian Rupiah) was lost to oil theft between January 1 to July 23, 2013.

In 2012, the company lost $52 Million to oil theft.

An international report on oil theft and smuggling reported that the Petamina pipeline in South Sumatra losses about 1,000 barrels per day to theft and bunkering.

Source:  “Indonesia Among Destinations for Stolen Nigerian Oil: Report,” Jakarta Globe, September 20, 2013.

64,507 wildlife animals was seized by criminal justice agencies in Colombia as they were being trafficked across the country.

59 percent of the trafficked animals seized were reptiles, 16 percent were birds, 5 percent were mammals, and the remaining 20 percent were other types of species.

In an example of the illegal wildlife trade in Colombia, a sloth is sold on the black market for $30.

(Prices of exotic animals for sale worldwide.)

Source:  Sylvia Zárate, “Colombia: Canine squad combats wildlife trafficking,” Infosurhoy, September 19, 2013.