Illegal wildlife trade crisis

In recent years the impact of illicit wildlife trade on species has reached unprecedented levels.

Black Rhinoceros

This trade, linked to global criminal gangs and terrorist groups is estimated to be worth over $10billion annually and represents a threat to the very existence of some of our best loved species:

  • In the last 2 years over 10% of the total African elephant population has been slaughtered for ivory, a death toll the species simply cannot sustain
  • Since 2000 over 1000 tigers have been poached, a huge number considering there are thought to be no more than 3500 left in the wild
  • 2012 saw a surge in tiger poaching reports from across the tiger’s range. Even more worrying than the increase in numbers of confiscated tiger parts or snared tiger incidents are the clear intelligence indications that the demand is becoming more international, more professional and better organised
  • Rhino poaching in Africa has increased by 43% between 2011 and 2012 and this rate seems to be rising -since the start of 2013 1 rhino has been killed every 11 hours
  • In our oceans many shark species are being driven to extinction as massive levels of overfishing, estimated at over 100 million individuals killed annually, takes its toll

Wildlife trade is regulated through the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) to which 179 countries are signatories. In March 2013 representatives from these countries and other interested parties, including ZSL, met in Bangkok at the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16). Delegates debated issues that will go a long way to deciding the fate of many species including amongst others, proposals to legalise trade in rhino horn, how to address the massive illegal ivory trade and providing stronger protection for sharks.

Urgent action is needed to face this crisis, to help countries control poaching on the ground as well as to take steps to reduce the demand in countries like China, Thailand and Vietnam that is ultimately driving the demand for wildlife and wildlife products. ZSL is already active in fighting wildlife crime through our global conservation projects.