Illegal Wildlife Trade Infographic

illegal wildlife trade infographic


All You Need to Know About Illegal Wildlife Trading

The wildlife trade involves hundreds of millions of individual plants and animals from tens of thousands of species all over the world, but not all of them are legal to own, sell or hunt. The demand for wildlife grows as the human population grows. It is only expected that humans would depend upon natural resources — however, it is important to understand the implications of some actions over others, in order to make the best decisions according to ethics, the law and ecology.

From 2005 to 2009, more than 12,000 seizures of illegal wildlife were made in the European Union. Demands for wildlife often include: seafoods; wild meat; leather goods; exotic wood timbers; medicinal ingredients; exotic furs; live pets; hunting trophies; fashion accessories; cultural artifacts, and also as souvenirs.

Wildlife trade hotspots are places where wildlife trade is particularly threatening the natural biodiversity. The main trade hotspots include: China’s international borders; trade hubs in East/Southern Africa; Southeast Asia; the eastern borders of the European Union; Mexico marketplaces, and finally, some parts of the Caribbean, Indonesia, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

From 2001 to 2005, over 11,000 specimens (live animals and wildlife products) were seized in shipments from Costa Rica; Dominican Republic; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras, and Nicaragua. These live specimens included birds, reptiles, marine turtles, corals and mammals.

Many illegally-traded species are also sold as pets. Villagers along the Amazon commonly keep monkeys and parrots as pets, and the sale of these animals is common there in open markets. Capturing primates such as baby tamarins, marmosets, spider monkeys, saki monkeys and other species often means shooting the mother primate out of a tree, with the baby primate clinging onto Mom. The baby primate may not even survive the fall from the tree, senselessly ending the lives of these beautiful animals. While illegal wildlife trading is a heinous practice to most, it is important to remember that extreme poverty is a leading cause of the illegal wildlife trade; forcing people to disregard wildlife in order to meet their short-term, survival needs.

The hunting of wildlife illegally is a serious threat to rare and endangered species, and undermines environmental preservation efforts. As a result, endangered plants and animals become the prime targets of illegal wildlife trading. This self-accelerating cycle can push rare and endangered species past the brink of extinction.

From the illegal logging of protected forests to the illegal fishing of endangered marine life for food, and the poaching of elephants for ivory, the illegal wildlife trade is hugely popular in the criminal community, nearly equal to illegal drug trafficking, human trafficking and arms trafficking. It has been estimated that the illegal wildlife trade is worth at least $5 billion, and could possibly be worth as much as $20 billion or more annually. It is difficult for anyone to estimate with great accuracy the exact value because of the secretive nature of the business.

While the Internet helps us spread awareness and knowledge of the illegal wildlife trade, it has also lead to a growth in the illegal market, making it easier than ever to match sellers with buyers of illegal wildlife. Rhino poaching in South Africa increased 3000 per cent between 2007 and 2011. As demand for the horns of rhinos increases in Asia, so increases illegal poaching. The rhino’s horn is considered a traditional medicine by some, supposedly used to treat a variety of ailments. There is little in the way of scientific evidence to support this, yet the demand continues to increase with the ever-growing human population, and the illegal poaching of rhinos is bringing them to the brink of the extinction.

When humans tamper with nature and introduce organisms into environments they aren’t adapted to, things can go wrong and the entire ecosystem can suffer. Invasive species of plants and animals can have drastic impacts on the species that have adapted to life in their natural habitat. Most nations have strict laws about bringing certain plants and animals into and out of the country. The top ten invasive species include: the Asian carp; rabbits; cane; toads; gray squirrels; killer bees; starlings; the Northern snakehead; zebra; mussels, and finally, the Burmese python.

**In order to address the very grave nature of illegal wildlife trading, widespread awareness serves as a paramount stepping stone. If you wish to make a long-term, ecological difference, consider environmental science distance learning. You can learn more about the types of environmental degrees available at!**


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