Wildlife Smuggling

October 2010 • Volume 4, Issue 10
Can the world's disappearing species be saved from poachers?
By Robert Kiener


Officials examine the body of a rhinoceros (AFP/Getty Images/STR)
Officials examine the body of a rhinoceros killed by poachers in Kaziranga National Park in India's northeastern Assam state on Feb. 24, 2010. Rhinos are killed for their horns, which some cultures believe have medicinal or magical properties. (AFP/Getty Images/STR)

Traffickers are slaughtering some of the world's most beloved endangered or threatened animals for their body parts — including elephant tusks, tiger penises and bear gall bladders — to supply the booming black market in souvenirs, trophies and traditional Chinese medicine. Other animals are shot by African hunters to meet the burgeoning demand for “bushmeat,” both to feed the hungry in refugee camps and to satisfy the tastes of city dwellers. Thousands of other animals, including exotic birds and rare monkeys, are trapped to meet the growing demand for exotic pets. Using satellite phones, helicopters and the Internet, the increasingly sophisticated smugglers — often part of organized crime syndicates — generate up to $20 billion annually, making wildlife trafficking the world's third-most-lucrative illegal trade. Experts suggest two controversial solutions: banning all ivory trade and “farming” tigers and other exotic species to supply the seemingly insatiable demand for their body parts. While international conservation treaties have slowed the carnage, experts say tougher enforcement is needed before some of the Earth's last wild creatures disappear forever.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Wildlife and Endangered Species
Dec. 15, 2017  Species Extinction
Feb. 17, 2012  Invasive Species
Oct. 2010  Wildlife Smuggling
Jun. 03, 2005  Endangered Species Act Updated
Sep. 15, 2000  Mass Extinction
Oct. 01, 1999  Endangered Species Act
Apr. 19, 1996  Protecting Endangered Species
Aug. 28, 1992  Marine Mammals Vs. Fish
Jun. 21, 1991  Endangered Species
May 24, 1991  Animal Rights
Feb. 12, 1988  America's Biological Diversity
Aug. 02, 1985  Wildlife Management
Sep. 16, 1977  Protecting Endangered Wildlife
May 10, 1967  Wildlife Preservation
Wildlife and Endangered Species