Illegal wildlife trade
The illegal wildlife trade is one of the biggest threats to the survival of some of the world’s rarest species. In fact it’s second only to habitat destruction as a cause of species loss and potential extinction.
That’s why tackling illegal wildlife trade is such a vital and urgent part of our work at WWF.
There's actually been an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade across the world in recent years, which is threatening to overturn decades of conservation successes, especially for key species like rhinos, elephants and tigers.
Here are just a few of the shocking figures:
- Between 2007-2011, rhino poaching in South Africa increased 3,000%.
- More than 23 tonnes of illegal ivory was uncovered in a number of big seizures in 2011 - which itself corresponds to at least 2,500 elephants.
- There may be as few as 3,200 wild tigers left in the world - and the increase in poaching makes extinction of tiger species a very real threat.
Why we can't ignore wildlife crime
Watch this short 7-minute extract from a documentary made for NBC's Rock Center programme in early 2012. It includes some of the people closely involved with protecting rhinos on the ground in South Africa, and how they're being affected by the epidemic of poaching there.
It's followed by Dr Joseph Okori, head of WWF's rhino programme in Africa, summing up our take on the poaching crisis.
Please note - these films contains emotional and disturbing images that may well upset you, but we feel it's important to show what's really happening right now to wonderful creatures like the rhino - and why we're ramping up our efforts to protect them and halt the illegal wildlife trade, with your support. Please help our campaign.
And here's Tom Milliiken of TRAFFIC, our wildlife trade monitoring partner, making it very clear just how organised, technological, ruthless and hard to track the poachers and wildlife traders really are...
More about wildlife trade – legal and illegal
The term ‘wildlife trade’ actually refers to a mostly legal practice. It covers a wide spectrum of everyday activities and products – for instance:
- timber used for furniture or building materials
- exotic flowers, plants or pets
- ‘wild’ ingredients sourced for medicines and cosmetics
- clothes, shoes or bags made from, for example, reptile skins.
Wildlife trade only becomes a problem, and of prime concern to us at WWF, when the trade becomes unsustainable and puts the future survival of a species at risk.
Since 1975 there’s been an agreement between governments around the world known as CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which aims to ensure the international trade in a wild plant or animal does not threaten its future.
At the moment there are 175 member states, or ‘parties’, signed up to CITES – in other words the vast majority of countries in the world, with rare exceptions like North Korea and Angola.
We work with the UK government - and across the world through the global WWF Network - to influence international policy on conservation issues affecting some of the world’s most important species. We make sure our voice is heard particularly at two important policy bodies: the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
You might not realise it, but the illegal trade in wildlife is a problem here in the UK too. Find out the various ways we're tackling it - and how you can help support our work.
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is a joint conservation programme of WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.