Life on Land

Illegal Wildlife Trade 4th Largest Crime Network

The illegal wildlife trade is now the FOURTH largest organised crime network and believed to be worth an estimated £15 billion annually. 


The activity is only surpassed by the drugs trade, people smuggling and counterfeit fraud.  The trade includes poaching, which is particularly prevalent in Africa to source consumer demand from regions such as Asia for ivory, rhino horn, skin and bone for various products, such as traditional medicines.

The Facts 

  • 20 tonnes of pangolins and their parts are trafficked every year – China and Viet Nam are the two primary consumer markets 
  • 1 million pangolins have been poached in the last decade 
  • 3 rhinos are poached in South Africa EVERY DAY 
  • 90% of African Elephants have been killed in the last 100 years, with 20% lost in the last decade alone 
  • 55 African Elephants are poached on the continent of Africa EVERY DAY 
  • Only 3,800 tiger remain in the wild 
  • Between 7,000 – 8,000 tigers are believed to be held in captive breeding facilities across Asia, with 30% of seized tiger products suspected to come from captive animals. 
  • The illegal trade in fact also includes materials such as tropical timber and other plant species like cacti. Timber is the world’s most valuable wildlife product, and hosts much biodiversity within it’s forests. However, between 10-30% of global timber trade is thought to be illegal. 

(source: TRAFFIC) 

The main legislation, CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is backed by 181 countries and is there to control trade and conserve specific groups of wild fauna and flora (animal and plant species).   

Prince William has repeatedly called for an end to the trade, most recently in his ITV documentary, ‘A Planet for Us All’, where he visited a compound of confiscated contraband filling multiple hanger buildings from floor to ceiling. 

How Can I Help? 

  • By supporting organisations, such as TRAFFIC and WWF, who actively tackle the illegal wildlife trade to the heart of it, by pressuring active markets and ensuring CITIES is respected globally. 
  • Research what you are buying, where it comes from. 
  • Choose sustainable, eco-friendly products and eat sustainable foods, such as marked seafood products. 
  • Write to your local MP and petition your Local Government to speak up against the illegal wildlife trade. Ask what they’re doing to ensure this issue is addressed. 
  • Report any illegal wildlife trade activity you notice online or across social media – there is even a specific report function for this activity now contained on most platform reporting processes. 
  • Pledge your support by signing/sharing petitions and speaking up to raise awareness about the issue! A sea of voices heard can create change – do you want to be part of that? 

You can find more information and tips on our resource page for Goal 15 – Life on Land!

Posted by Claire Edwards 15 October 2020

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