In honour of World Elephant Day we will introduce you to a topic which is often overlooked and not taken very serious: wildlife crime.
Wildlife crime is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal industry, right after drugs, arms and human trafficking. It is also responsible for millions of deaths each year.
But what is wildlife crime actually? And what can we do to end it? In today’s post we will introduce you to this mournful topic.
Written by Lea
Wildlife crime is the illegal poaching, smuggling, transport or selling of animal products or species itself for the purpose of (financial) profit. Organised crime organisations and sometimes even rebel militia or terrorist groups are often involved in this crime.
Currently the illegal trade of wildlife is worth about $20 billion annually. It is driven by the demand for carvings, ornaments, luxury items, trophies and traditional Asian medicines. Such items are often made of ivory, horn, bones, scales and teeth. Other reasons for the illegal trade of wild species are bushmeat and live animals for pets and zoos.
Five facts about wildlife crime
- Every 15 minutes an elephant is killed for its ivory.
The African Elephant is officially listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN red list. They are slaughtered at rates never seen before, only to cut of their tusk (ivory) to make ornaments out of it. The leading marked in elephant tusks is China, where the wholesale price of ivory lies at $730 per kilogram (as at 2017).
- More than 1000 park rangers were killed by people associated with wildlife crime over the last decade.
One of the main duties of park rangers is to protect vulnerable wildlife populations from poaching. Unfortunately, they often have to risk their life on the front line of conservation work.
- Rhinos have been poached to the brink of extinction.
Over 1175 Rhinos have been poached in South Africa in 2015. There are less then 70 Javan rhinos living in the wild today and there are officially only two northern white rhinos left in this world.
Rhinos are mainly poached for their horn, which is thought to have healing power in traditional Asian medicine. Even though it is scientifically proven that this is NOT true (rhino horn is made of keratin, same material as your finger nails and hair), the demand for Rhino horn is still increasing.
- Not only big, exotic mammals are victims.
In total, more than 7000 different species worldwide are target of wildlife crime. The European Eel for example is Critically Endangered due to the high demand of eel meat in Asia. Furthermore, millions of birds are illegally trapped or killed across the Mediterranean countries every year.
- There are more Tigers in American backyards than in the wild.
WWF estimates that there are more than 5000 Tigers being kept as pets in American backyards, while only 3000 individuals remain in the wild. Tigers are also killed for their bones and skin.
How to stop wildlife crime
Unfortunately, wildlife crime is seen as a relatively low risk, high return business and there is no way to stop wildlife crime alone. Governments as well as international/national organisations need to work together to make it more difficult for criminals.
Therefore, the effort and risk for criminals need to be increased and the profit they gain from wildlife crime need to be reduced. To do so, international as well as national policy work is required to ensure that agreements to tackle wildlife crime are translated into effective actions at national level.
But you can help too! Here are three tips how you can help to end wildlife crime:
- Stop buying wild animal products such as ivory statues (ask before you buy)
- Inform your friends and family about this war
- Report wildlife crime (for example at WildLeaks or WWF)
Wildlife crime is a complex topic and there is so much more to know about! Let us know if you want to know more!