Wildlife Trafficking: A Global Threat
The multi-billion dollar illegal trade in protected species is one of the most lucrative illicit markets in the world today. Combined with habitat loss, it is driving many wild animals and plants towards extinction. Unsustainable poaching and wildlife trafficking is perpetrated globally, with less developed countries often targeted in this theft. Controlled by organized international crime syndicates, the value of the illegal wildlife trade is estimated at US$10-20 billion annually by some experts.
Despite national and international laws designed to protect endangered species, almost all wild species are traded. Big cats, pangolins, reptiles, birds, elephant ivory and illegal timber are traded illegally in large quantities. This illegal trade is driven by demand for hardwoods and softwoods; rare plants; bones, scales and other ingredients for traditional medicines; pets and zoo exhibits; collectors’ trophies; decorations and luxury items; as well as wild meat and other products. Many of those involved in the trade, including consumers, are unaware of the impact their actions.
With species being removed from the wild faster than they can repopulate, their inputs to critical natural processes and ecosystem resilience are lost - a 'knock on' effect that causes other species to disappear. Left unchecked, wildlife trafficking threatens to unravel entire ecosystems.
Wildlife Trafficking Impacts:
- Massive and irrevocable biodiversity loss: If trends continue, scientists predict 13-42% of Southeast Asia’s animal and plant species could be wiped out this century. At least half those losses would represent global extinctions.
- Unravelling of living ecosystems that underpin essential environmental services including fresh water supply, food production, and climate stability.
- Human health is endangered by unregulated trade in wild animals that can spread and pass on viruses and diseases. SARS and Avian Influenza, for example, were transferred from wild animals to human beings.
- Organized Crime is strengthened by profits from illegal wildlife trade. Links are now being detected between wildlife crime, drug trafficking and human trafficking.
Download FREELAND's Illegal Wildlife Trade Factsheet for more detailed information.