Wildlife trade

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Assorted seashells, coral, shark jaws and dried blowfish on sale in Greece
Framed butterflies, moths, beetles, bats, Emperor scorpions and tarantula spiders on sale in Rhodes, Greece

The international wildlife trade is a serious conservation problem, addressed by the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which currently has 170 member countries called Parties.[1] The 15th Conference of the Parties of CITES was held in Doha, Qatar in March 2010.[2] The trade in wildlife is the third largest illegal business behind only drugs and weapons [3]

International wildlife trade can be classified in 2 forms:

  • Illegal trade in wildlife is said to be the second largest illegal trade in volume, second to narcotics and followed by arms and ammunition although there is no hard data supporting this claim and CITES Secretariat has recently even disavowed this statistic. Still, it's a serious threat to a number of endangered and vulnerable species. The removal of species from regions which is part of illegal widlife trade may cause severe problems for the local ecosystem.
  • Legal trade in wildlife is distinguished by the sale of wildlife, yet done so in a sustainable manner. Wildlife farms for example farm wildlife animals with the intent of selling these, an activity which does not cause any negative effect to the ecosystem. It may also solve some other issues (see below).


The international illegal wildlife trade is sometimes differentiated from bushmeat trade by virtue of its geographic scale and commercialization. Bushmeat, usually but not always referring to Africa, is the consumption of wildlife locally or nationally for protein. Sometimes bushmeat is internationalized through trade links from Africa to Europe or North America, but most bushmeat is consumed near its place of origin. The international illegal trade of wildlife, conversely, is defined by the trade of high-value wild animals and products derived from wild animals across borders.

Reasons for concern[edit]

Wildlife trade puts the local ecosystem under threat species under additional pressure at a time when they are facing threats such as over-fishing, pollution, dredging, deforestation and other forms of habitat destruction. The "items" may be traded live or dead.

In the food chain, species higher up on the ladder ensure that the species below them do not become to abundant (hence controlling the population of those below them). Animals lower on the ladder are often non-carnivorous (but instead herbivorous) and control the abundance of plant species in a region. Due to the very large amounts of species that are removed from the ecosystem, it is not inconceivable that environmental problems will commence to occur (similar to i.e. overfishing that causes abundance of jellyfish to occur). In the example given it also becomes quickly clear that having the governments of countries where wildlife occurs crack down effectively on wildlife trade may, in some instances, allow these countries to save themselves a considerable amount of money.

Survival rate of species during transport[edit]

In some instances; such as the sale of chameleons from Madagascar, organisms are transported by boat or via the air to consumers. The survival rate of these is extremely poor (only 1% survival rate).[4] This is undoubtably caused by the illegal nature; vendors rather not risk that the chameleons were to be discovered and so do not ship them in plain view. Due to the very low survival rate, it also means that far higher amounts of organisms (in this case chameleons) are taken away from the ecosystem, to make up for the losses.

Illegal wildlife trade and globalization[edit]

Shark fin for sale in Hong Kong

Interpol has estimated the extent of the illegal wildlife trade between $10 billion and $20 billion per year. While the trade is a global one, with routes extending to every continent, conservationists say the problem is most acute in Southeast Asia. There, trade linkages to key markets in China, the United States, and the European Union; lax law enforcement; weak border controls; and the perception of high profit and low risk contribute to large-scale commercial wildlife trafficking. The ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and external funders, is one response to the region's illegal wildlife trade networks.

Illegal wildlife trade over the world[edit]

In Asia and Africa[edit]

Notable trade hubs of the wildlife trade include Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, which offers smugglers direct jet service to Europe, the Middle East, North America and Africa. The Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok is a known center of illicit wildlife trade, and the sale of lizards, primates, and other endangered species has been widely documented. Trade routes connecting in Southeast Asia link Madagascar to the United States (for the sale of turtles, lemurs, and other primates), Cambodia to Japan (for the sale of slow lorises as pets), and the sale of many species to China.

Despite international and local laws designed to crack down on the trade, live animals and animal parts — often those of endangered or threatened species - are sold in open-air markets throughout Asia. The animals involved in the trade end up as trophies, or in specialty restaurants. Some are used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Despite the name, elements of TCM are widely adopted throughout East and Southeast Asia, among both Chinese and non-Chinese communities.

The trade also includes demand for exotic pets, and consumption of wildlife for meat. Large volumes of fresh water tortoises and turtles, snakes, pangolins and monitor lizards are consumed as meat in Asia, including in specialty restaurants that feature wildlife as gourmet dining.

In South America[edit]

Although the volume of animals traded may be greater in Southeast Asia, animal trading in Latin America is widespread as well.

In open air Amazon markets in Iquitos and Manaus, a variety of rainforest animals are sold openly as meat, such as agoutis, peccaries, turtles, turtle eggs, walking catfish, etc. In addition, many species are sold as pets. The keeping of parrots and monkeys as pets by villagers along the Amazon is commonplace. But the sale of these "companion" animals in open markets is rampant. Capturing the baby tamarins, marmosets, spider monkeys, saki monkeys, etc., in order to sell them, often requires shooting the mother primate out of a treetop with her clinging child; the youngster may or may not survive the fall. With the human population increasing, such practices have a serious impact on the future prospects for many threatened species. The United States is a popular destination for Amazonian rainforest animals. They are smuggled across borders the same way illegal drugs are - in the trunks of cars, in suitcases, in crates disguised as something else.

Organizations addressing illegal wildlife trade[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CITES 2013. Member countries. CITES Secretariat, Geneva.
  2. ^ CITES 2013. Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties. CITES Secretariat, Geneva.
  3. ^ Jessica B. Izzo, PC Pets for a Price: Combating Online and Traditional Wildlife Crime Through International Harmonization and Authoritative Polices William and Mary Environmental Law and Policy Journal, Vol. 34 Iss. 3 (2010)[1].
  4. ^ Madagascar, land of the chameleons documentary
  5. ^ "Obama Administration's Proposed Ban on Domestic Sale of Ivory Could Impact Gun Owners."

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]