Wildlife Crime

1. Each year, it is estimated that up to 30,000 primates, 5 million birds, 10 million reptile skins and 500 million tropical fish are traded illegally. Crime like this is happening all over the world. For example, from the pristine jungles of Cambodia to the great national parks of India and Nepal, Asian wildlife is being plundered on an unprecedented scale.

2. We have all heard and read about cases of 'Tourists' - usually well-off westerners - who pay large sums of money to travel across the world and be shown by local collaborators into remote areas to shoot lions, tigers or other species. This is all done for the sick 'thrill of the kill', and maybe a trophy on their wall. This is only one small example of what is going wrong.

3. There has also been a massive illegal trade of endangered animals in Asia for a very long time, incorporating its dealers, stockpiles, trafficking routes and markets. This is an enormous contraband industry, where the poachers are often the only people blamed. However they are only a small part of a complex supply chain and highly profitable illegal international trading business.

4. In some cultures, according to ancient customs, animal parts are imbued with ‘magical’ properties. Some people believe, for example, that eating the flesh of a tiger will make them strong. Despite scientific studies proving such superstitions wrong, the trade in animals and animal parts continues, fuelled by desire, greed and corruption.

5. Rhino horns have no medicinal purpose, but myths about their effect on health and potency have pushed their value to exceed the price of gold. Animal trade thrives on novelty and on the belief that exotic animals exude certain powers. More and more people are becoming aware of the myths, but sellers are also adapting to modern market needs. Porous rhino horns are now often soaked in Viagra before they reach the market.

6. Recent research published in the journal ‘Conservation Biology’ shows that, if there are no changes to anti-poaching policies, then rhinos could become extinct in the wild by 2023 – such is the scale of the current poaching epidemic. Up until the end of 2014 the numbers of rhinos being lost annually through poaching is continuing to increase.

7. The exact value of that market is impossible to ascertain, but experts estimate that it is somewhere close to $10 billion annually. A poacher who kills a rhino and removes its horn in India gets $350. That same horn sells for $1,000 in a nearby market town. By the time it passes through several other 'dealers' and reaches Hong Kong, Beijing or the Middle East, the horn is worth $370,000. Tiger bones are worth up to $700 per kilo.

8. Up until 1989 there was a growing trade in ivory from the tusks of slaughtered elephants. In that year an international ban was introduced by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). For the next decade the population of elephants began to recover in numbers and diversity. However, in 2008 the demand from the far east surged and the price of ivory rose sharply. Consequently, in 2010-12 around 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa. This alarmingly rapid loss of elephants will quickly make them extinct in Africa if it continues.

9. The illegal global wildlife trade has doubled since the 1990s, and the evidence is very disheartening: more than 100 million sharks are killed each year. There are now more Bengalese tigers in Texas than in Bengal.

10. If humans cannot stop the loss of large, iconic species such as rhinos, elephants, tigers and sharks, then what does that tell us about our ongoing destruction of thousands of other animal species, and of the future of the earth, our only home ?

11. Although they date from 1854, it seems like Chief Seattle’s words are still relevant today.