THE
CRISIS

WHAT IS THE ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE?

Each year, hundreds of millions of animals are illegally killed or caught to be sold as pets, trophies, skins, high-end trinkets and traditional medicine. It is estimated that the illegal wildlife trade generates up to $23 billion a year, making it the fourth largest criminal industry in the world after drugs, arms and human trafficking.

WHAT ARE THE GLOBAL RAMIFICATIONS OF THE ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE?

The importance of wildlife goes beyond conservation. Wildlife brings ecological benefits, but also cultural and economic contributions to countries and regions around the world. Many developing countries depend heavily on wildlife tourism for jobs and income. For these countries, the loss of species such as elephant and rhino would be devastating, threatening sustainable development and economic growth. Sub-Saharan Africa would be hit the hardest as roughly 7% of the GDP and 10-12% of employment comes from wildlife-related tourism.

WHY IS WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING ON THE RISE?

Increased buyer power, population growth, and globalization have led to the proliferation of wildlife markets around the world, with China and the United States as the lead consumers. While demand continues to increase, corruption, breakdown in the rule of law and weak legal systems allow poachers and traffickers to drive the crisis from the supply side.

Countries lacking strong law enforcement as well as areas controlled by militants and gangs are hubs for wildlife trafficking. Studies show a confirmed overlap between the narcotics and ivory trades. And human trafficking and terrorist networks along the East African coast have been shown to use the same facilitators and transport mechanisms. These criminal networks are commodity agnostic, trading in drugs, arms and wildlife. Therefore, investigating wildlife crime often illuminates the operations that are used to traffic other illicit goods.

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