Wildlife Trafficking

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  1. Illegal Wildlife Trade Value:$19 Billion

Wildlife Trafficking

News and statistics about wildlife trafficking and the illegal wildlife trade. Wildlife smuggling and animal trafficking data are collected from wildlife charities, research organizations, security officials and criminal justice programs.

Statistics released by the United Nation’s’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) showed that 1,215 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2014.

The number of rhinos killed for their rhino horn was a record high.

1,004 rhinos were poached and killed in South Africa in 2013.

668 were killed in 2012.

341 were killed in 2011.

333 were killed in 2010.

122 were killed in 2009.

The rise in poaching of rhinos is due to the high price of rhino horn on the black market. A kilogram of rhino horn is sold for up to $65,000.

(Additional prices of exotic animals and endangered species.)

Source:  Live Science, “Amid Record-Breaking Poaching, Wildlife Experts Seek to Smash a Black Market,” Yahoo News, March 5, 2015.


According to reports from wildlife organization Save the Elephants, the price for raw ivory in China was $2,100 per kilogram.

Back in 2010, the price of the ivory was $750 per kilo.

Between 2010 and 2012, up to 33,000 elephants were poached and killed on average each year.

(See the price of elephants for sale on the global black market here.)

Source: AFP, “Smuggled elephant ivory price triples,” Yahoo News, July 3, 2014.

Based on statistics released by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), there were at least 20,000 elephants killed world wide by poachers in 2013 for their ivory tusks. The number of elephants killed was slightly down from the 22,000 elephants killed in 2012 and the 25,000 poached in 2011.

At the end of 2013, there were an estimated 500,000 African elephants living in the world. 95 percent of the elephant population has been killed during the last 100 years.

The ivory is collected from elephants in Africa and sold in markets in Asia. According to Cites, there are 8 countries that are heavily involved in either buying, selling or providing illicit ivory. The countries are Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in Africa, and China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam in Asia.

The three African countries accounted for 80 percent of the major seizures in Africa in 2013.

Security forces stated that many of the gangs involved in wildlife trafficking are now using existing drug trafficking routes to smuggle the ivory.

(See more elephant poaching statistics here.)

Source:  Damian Carrington, “Fewer elephants killed in 2013, figures show,” Guardian, June 13, 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.

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.

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.

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.