Plants and Animals

Illegal wildlife trade


Each year, hundreds of millions of plants and animals are caught or harvested from the wild and then sold as food, pets, ornamental plants, leather, tourist curios, and medicine. While a great deal of this trade is legal and is not harming wild populations, a worryingly large proportion is illegal — and threatens the survival of many endangered species.

Why do people trade wildlife?

Obviously, people trade wildlife for cash or exchange it for other useful objects. Simply put, all for their own benefits. Driving the trade is the end-consumer who has a need or desire for wildlife products, whether for food, construction or clothing.

Why is wildlife trade a problem?

Wildlife trade is by no means always a problem and most wildlife trade is legal. However, it has the potential to be very damaging. The second-biggest direct threat to species survival, after habitat destruction, is wildlife trade.

Perhaps the most obvious problem associated with wildlife trade is that it can cause over exploitation to the point where the survival of a species hangs in the balance. Historically, such overexploitation has caused extinctions or severely threatened species and, as human populations have expanded, demand for wildlife has only increased. Tigers, rhinoceroses, and elephants are among the most affected species.

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