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.

A wildlife charity in Cyprus stated that companies were offering tourists to go off the coast of the country and illegally fish for sharks.

Nireas Marine Research stated that companies charge tourists $1,360 (€1,000) to fish for sharks. In videos and photos posted on Facebook, the tourist catches the shark and pulls it on to the boat. Then, using a hammer, the tourist beats the shark to death.

Source:  Peter Stevenson, “NGOs say nothing is done to stop illegal shark-fishing,” Cyprus Mail, November 28, 2013.

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.

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.

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.

In 2013, it was reported that poachers in Zimbabwe used cyanide to kill elephants at a nature reserve. Original estimates by wildlife officials found stated that around 100 elephants died from the poison. After further analysis, the number of elephants killed by cyanide has increased to over 300. Conservation officials state that it is the worst massacre of elephants in Southern African in 25 years.

(All elephant poaching statistics.)

The poachers killed the elephants by lacking water holes and salt licks with cyanide. Once the elephants die, the poachers cut of their ivory tusks. The poachers are able to sell the tusks for $482 (4,750 South African Rand) to cross-border traders in Zimbabwe. The tusks are then smuggled to South Africa, where it can be resold for up to $1,604 (15,800 Rand).

(More black market wildlife trade prices.)

Source:  Daily Telegraph, “Poachers kill 300 Zim elephants with cyanide,” Times Live, October 21, 2013.

All wildlife trafficking information.

A campaign to lower the consumption of shark fins in China appears to be achieving results. According to wildlife protection groups, the consumption of shark fin soup in China was down 50 to 70 percent in 2013 when compared to two years before.

Previously, up to 70 million sharks were killed each year in order to meet the demand for shark fin soup in China. Sharks would be captured and have its fins cut off while the rest of the body was thrown back into the water. The fins would be used in soup and sold at an expensive price at wedding receptions and banquets in order to display a person’s social status.

There were several factors that lead to the lower demand.  First was a public awareness campaign  that featured former NBA star Yao Ming that aimed to educate the public. A survey conducted in 2005-2006 found that 80 percent of respondents did not know that “fish wing” soup was actually shark fins.

In addition to awareness, steps taken by the Chinese government to stop ordering the soup at official banquets lead to lower demand.

Industry groups in Hong Kong state that imports of shark fins have declined by 20 to 30 percent, while the Commerce Ministry reported that consumption of shark fin soup was down 70 percent during the 2013 Spring Break Holiday from the year before. Traders in Beijing Marketplaces have been forced to lower their prices in order to move inventory. A half-kilo of dried shark fin currently sells for $110, down from the previous $165.

(Prices of the illegal wildlife trade.)

In high-end restaurants in Beijing, a bowl of shark fin soup sells for $60 to $325. Some hotels and restaurants no longer offer the soup.

Source:  Washington Post, “Wildlife victory: shark fin falls from favor in China,” Japan Times, October 20, 2013.

According to a survey conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), up to 70 percent of people in China did not know that ivory used in products came form dead elephants.  The people surveyed previously thought that ivory simply dropped their ivory in a way that is similar as how humans lose their teeth.

The IFAW started a three year campaign to educate the Chinese public on the origins of ivory, and the role that poachers play in killing the elephants. According to an evaluation of the campaign, 66 percent of those who saw commercials about the ivory trade stated that they would “definitely” not be purchasing ivory products in the future.

(Prices of the illegal wildlife trade.)

Source:  Jeremy Hance, “Advertising campaign changing minds in China on ivory trade,” Mongabay, October 16, 2013.