The illegal wildlife trade threatens the future existence of many of the world’s most iconic species and is one of the five most lucrative global crimes.
Wildlife trade, legal or illegal, is the exchange or sale of wild animal or plant resources. This includes live animals and plants, animal body parts such as skins and feathers, and any products made from or including a wild animal or plant.
Though it may not be immediately obvious, wildlife trade has an impact upon many areas of life. This trade can be local or it can involve products travelling across the world to different countries. Think about the products you buy – how many involve wildlife products? For example, if you eat seafood or buy things made from timber then you are part of a local, or maybe even global, legal trade chain for wildlife products.
Illegal wildlife trade is one of the five most lucrative crimes in the world, with it estimated to be valued between $50-150 billion USD per year. It’s made up of three key elements: poaching, trafficking and demand. Many species are directly threatened by illegal wildlife trade, and whilst national and international laws are in place for their protection, such as CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora & Fauna), as demand for wildlife products grows, so does the illegal trade.
Illegal wildlife trade contributes directly to the loss of species and habitat destruction, but it also directly and indirectly impacts local communities.
People all along the trade chain are impacted – for example, those directly affected by poaching such as rangers, their families and the communities they come from. Or communities may be indirectly affected because the decrease in wildlife reduces tourism to an area, impacting on jobs, income and undermining their livelihoods.
The illegal wildlife trade threatens the future existence of many of the world’s most iconic species, but together we can make a difference.