Illegal Animal Trade at $6 Billion Annually

Illegal trade in wildlife is a $6 billion-dollar-a-year global industry that is detailed in a new report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

In "State of the Wild 2006," the organization puts forth what they know about wildlife populations.

“Today, anything large enough to be eaten or lucrative enough to be sold is hunted on a massive scale for its meat, skin, fur or feathers, for the pet trade, or as an ingredient in traditional medicines,” said Elizabeth Bennett, director for WCS’s Hunting and Wildlife Trade Program. “Wildlife populations are crashing, and wild areas increasingly are losing their wildlife, becoming devoid of vibrancy and life.”

Among the numbers:

  • Increase in number of animal species classified as threatened by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) since 1996: 2,061 (from 5,205 to 7,266)
  • Number of quarter-pound hamburgers that would equal conservative estimates of Central Africa’s yearly wild meat harvest: 9 billion
  • Number of people whose protein needs 1 square mile (2.59 square kilometers) of tropical forest can sustainably support with wild meat: 2.5
  • Number of people per square mile living in remaining forests: in Latin America, 17 (46 per square kilometer); Central Africa, 38 (99 per square kilometer); Southeast  Asia, 190 (502 per square kilometer)
  • Number of seahorses caught yearly for traditional Asian medicine: 18 to 21.6 million
  • Number of animals imported to the United States in 2002: over 38,000 mammals, 365,000 birds, 2 million reptiles, 49 million amphibians, and 216 million fish
  • Average number of items advertised on eBay per week as elephant ivory from February to May 2004: 1,000
  • Decline from 1979 to 1989 in numbers of African elephants that were killed largely for the then illegal ivory trade: between 600,000 and 1.3 million
  • Number of primates legally imported into the United States as pets or research animals between 1995 and 2002: 99,939
  • Percentage of tropical birds and reptiles that die during transport for the exotic pet trade: up to 80
  • Percentage of tropical bone imports between 1970 and 1993 by East Asian countries from other parts of Asia: at least 10 tons
  • Approximate number of animals 10 tons of tiger bone represents: between 500 and 1,000 animals
  • Estimated number of tigers left in the wild: under 5,000
  • Estimated number of captive tigers living in the United States: 5,000 to 7,000.

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