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Some exotic pets are bred in captivity. Conservationists often see captive breeding as a way to save wild animals from poaching for the pet trade, and many countries allow for the export of captive-bred animals as long as the proper legal documents are obtained. After an animal is plucked from the wild—often in violation of the law—it might be used in a breeding operation, sold locally, smuggled out of the country, or intentionally mislabeled as captive-bred and exported legally.

Rampant poaching for the exotic pet trade is devastating animal populations worldwide. The exotic pet business also affects humans and animals not involved in the trade.

Wildlife Trafficking

Wild animals have the potential to attack their owners or spread disease, such as ebola and SARS. An outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease END , which resulted in the deaths of 12 million birds in the U. Many countries also prohibit domestic sales or possession of certain animals. Poaching threatens the last of our wild tigers that number around 3, Wildlife crime is a big business.

Run by dangerous international networks, wildlife and animal parts are trafficked much like illegal drugs and arms. By its very nature, it is almost impossible to obtain reliable figures for the value of the illegal wildlife trade.


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Some examples of illegal wildlife trade are well known, such as poaching of elephants for ivory and tigers for their skins and bones. However, countless other species are similarly overexploited, from marine turtles to timber trees. Not all wildlife trade is illegal. Wild plants and animals from tens of thousands of species are caught or harvested from the wild and then sold legitimately as food, pets, ornamental plants, leather, tourist ornaments and medicine. Wildlife trade escalates into a crisis when an increasing proportion is illegal and unsustainable—directly threatening the survival of many species in the wild.

It is second only to habitat destruction in overall threats against species survival. As human populations have grown, so has the demand for wildlife. People in many countries are accustomed to a lifestyle which fuels demand for wildlife.

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They expect access to a variety of seafoods, leather goods, timbers, medicinal ingredients and textiles. At the other end, extreme poverty means some people see wildlife as valuable barter for trade. Illegal wildlife trade is driven by high profit margins and, in many cases, the high prices paid for rare species. Rhino horn, elephant ivory and tiger products continue to command high prices among consumers, especially in Asia.

In Vietnam, the recent myth that rhino horn can cure cancer has led to massive poaching in South Africa and pushed the price of rhino horn to rival gold.

Unsustainable and illegal wildlife trade | WWF

Corruption, toothless laws, weak judicial systems and light sentences allow criminal networks to keep plundering wildlife with little regard to consequences. These factors make illegal wildlife trade a low risk business with high returns.

The poachers—often poor locals—are the usually the only ones caught, leaving the real masterminds and their network safe and operational with the ability to strike again. There are certain places in the world where wildlife trade is particularly threatening.

While these hotspots might be trouble areas at present, they also offer opportunities for great conservation success, if action and funds are well-focused. Wildlife trade alone is a major threat to some species, but its impact is frequently made worse by habitat loss and other pressures. In Vietnam, the recent myth that rhino horn can cure cancer has led to massive poaching in South Africa and pushed the price of rhino horn to rival gold. Corruption, toothless laws, weak judicial systems and light sentences allow criminal networks to keep plundering wildlife with little regard to consequences.


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  • These factors make illegal wildlife trade a low risk business with high returns. The poachers—often poor locals—are the usually the only ones caught, leaving the real masterminds and their network safe and operational with the ability to strike again. There are certain places in the world where wildlife trade is particularly threatening.

    While these hotspots might be trouble areas at present, they also offer opportunities for great conservation success, if action and funds are well-focused. Wildlife trade alone is a major threat to some species, but its impact is frequently made worse by habitat loss and other pressures. The very existence of illegal trade undermines efforts made by countries to protect their natural resources.

    Illegal wildlife trade is run by criminal networks with wide, international reach.

    Some traffic illegal drugs, arms and even people. Recent evidence shows that some networks are also linked to terrorist organizations. Local wildlife is considered an important resource by many communities, often the poorest, in the developing world. Some rural households depend on wild animals for protein, trees for fuel, and both wild animals and plants for natural cures.

    Legal trade?

    Overexploitation of species affects the living planet in wider ways. Just as overfishing causes imbalances in the whole marine system, our complex web of life on earth depends on careful and thoughtful use of wildlife species and their habitats. Many invasive species have been purposely introduced by wildlife traders or buyers. These invasive species prey on or compete with native species and are a major threat to the balance of nature. Like marine species killed through bycatch, incidental killing of animals also happens on land.

    Illegal Wildlife Trade

    For example, crude traps set for musk deer or duikers cause damage and death to a variety of animals besides those intended. We also work closely with other partners, including conservation organizations, local communities and governments. WWF's expertise ensures that the threats to the environment from wildlife trade are tackled from an informed and global standpoint. We also assist enforcement efforts and fund antipoaching brigades. One of the most powerful tools for addressing illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade is persuading consumers to make informed choices.