The Crisis

Wildlife trafficking is decimating many endangered species around the globe due to an organized and highly sophisticated illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products. Wildlife trafficking has quickly become a multi-billion dollar transnational criminal activity that is not only a critical conservation issue, but is also a threat to security. It is ranked as the fourth most profitable transnational crime, only behind the drug trade, arms trade, and human trafficking. Wildlife trafficking undermines conservation efforts, fuels corruption, threatens the rule of law, and destabilizes communities that depend on wildlife for eco- tourism revenues.

Learn more about the animals most at risk, and what you can do to save them.


Nearly half of all cat species are threatened with extinction.

Tigers and other wild cats are in demand as live animals, skins, bones and other parts and products. Tigers are one of the most threatened victims of illegal trade.  Jaguars and leopards are under threat from growing demand for their skin/fur, teeth and claws; and lion bone is traded illegally for traditional medicine. Since 1980, the cheetah population has fallen by about 90% in Africa; and in Asia, only about 200 remain in the wild. More information.

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Thousands of elephants are killed every year to fuel the global demand of ivory.

African elephant populations have fallen from an estimated 12 million a century ago to around 350,000. As a result of global conservation efforts, poaching rates have been slightly, yet steadily, declining over the past few years across Africa. The annual poaching mortality rate has dropped from an estimated peak of over 10% in 2011 to approximately 5% today. We are still losing elephants faster than they can reproduce. More information.

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An average of three rhinos are killed per day in South Africa.

Rhinoceroses are rapidly disappearing from the wild due to high demand for their horn, used primarily in traditional medicines. One fifth of the remaining population of African rhinos have been killed since 2008; and only 3,000 Asian rhinos remain in the wild. More information.

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Pangolins are believed to be the world’s most trafficked mammal on earth.

More than one million pangolins have been poached from the wild in the last decade alone, killed in large numbers to meet a growing demand for their meat, skins, and scales. All eight species are at risk of extinction. More information.

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Sea Turtle

All seven remaining sea turtle species are at risk of extinction.

Sea turtles are one of Earth’s oldest creatures, existing for over 100 million years. They are frequently poached for their eggs, meat, skin and shells. The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle has seen a 90% decline in the last century due to over-collection for their shell, which is sold as “tortoiseshell” trinkets and souvenirs around the world. More information.

Sea Turtle Status
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Get the facts:

There is Bipartisan Support in the U.S. to Stop Wildlife Trafficking

In 2014, the White House released National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, which called for a collaborative effort with foreign governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to reduce supply and demand for illegal wildlife products. On July 31, 2015, the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance was announced to coordinate this “whole of civil society” approach to combat the scourge of wildlife trafficking.

Congress also supported this effort through its bipartisan passage of the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (“END”) Wildlife Trafficking Act in October 2016. The Act continues the work of the National Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking and requires ongoing reports of progress made under the National Strategy and its Implementation Plan.

YOU Have the Power to Stop the Killing

The quickest and most direct way to strangle the international syndicates that are orchestrating the killings is to stigmatize and reduce the demand for illegal wildlife products.  

While great inroads have been made by leaders across sectors (federal, commercial, and not-for-profit) to stop illegal traffickers, enhance enforcement efforts, create sustainable supply chains, and build awareness among the general public, more needs to be done, and quickly.

We must all work together to stop consumer demand and cut off supply chains and market access for illegal wildlife products.  Be Informed and #Buy Informed, and learn what you can do to take action!

American Public Largely Unaware of Wildlife Trafficking Crisis

The public overwhelmingly supports wildlife conservation, but nearly half of people surveyed in the United States have no awareness about illegal wildlife trafficking, according to a 2018 poll by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Wildlife Trafficking Alliance.  An overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. say that they oppose wildlife trafficking (74%), but most are unaware that their purchases may be contributing to the problem.

Wildlife Trafficking is Harming Tourism

As animals disappear from the wild, the opportunity to view them decreases—creating a domino effect that is rippling across the travel and tourism industry.  A new study has shown that elephant poaching alone is costing a whopping $25 million per year in lost tourism revenues.  For the animals, this is a matter of life and death.  But for many who depend on tourist revenues, it’s a matter of livelihood as well. 

Wildlife Trafficking is a Global Problem

A recent United Nations report reveals that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction due to human activities, including poaching; and that we are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.” Although the loss of African wildlife garners the most attention, wildlife traffickers are decimating important wildlife populations around the world. Endangered species are being poached in Latin America, the Caribbean, South America, Asia, and the United States. And once the products are smuggled out of the home country, they enter an industrial-scale illegal trade that spans the globe. Wildlife experts have confirmed that if we don’t act quickly, trafficking will wipe out many endangered species in our lifetime.

Common Victims of the Illegal Trade

Roughly 5,800 species of animals are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade.  They include some whole groups, such as primates, cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), sea turtles, parrots, corals, cacti and orchids. But in some cases, only a subspecies or geographically separate population of a species (for example the population of just one country) is listed.  

Endangered Animal Populations are in Trouble

Wildlife trafficking is an international crisis, with an unprecedented increase in illegal wildlife trade throughout the world in the past thirty years. Populations of endangered species have plummeted, yet the illegal trade shows no indication of slowing down. An unprecedented global demand for exotic wildlife products has triggered an industrial-scale killing spree of endangered animals on land and sea.  Wildlife trafficking, which depends on the killing of hundreds of thousands of animals, is a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry. Money from the illegal wildlife trade has been linked to organized criminal gangs and corrupt governments—all at the expense of wild animals, the environment, and our national security.

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