Environmental Crimes and Arrests Statistics
This page offers information on environmental crimes and related arrests prosecuted by particular countries. However many poaching incidents do not lead to arrests and there are several countries with lax penalties for illegally hunted protected wildlife species. As of 2015 at least 40 member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) had a maximum penalty of only a cash fine, while only 34 countries reported having a maximum penalty of jail time of more than four years (page 26). Only 56 countries had a maximum penalty of four or fewer years and 51 countries went unreported (page 26). Failure to impose stiff penalties for detrimental wildlife crimes may fail to discourage many honest people from becoming wildlife or fish poachers and may also be supporting existing corruption and bribery of law enforcement and judges overseeing these cases. Even with these maximum penalties some judges are routinely giving lighter sentences (page 11) and in numerous cases known poachers are regularly set free and their firearms immediately returned with the help of bribes or “fees” paid to court or prison officials.
For a comprehensive list of news articles and media reports published by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC please see their respective lists as well as publications by EIA. For in-depth journalism on the topic of wildlife traffickers and other environmental criminals please visit the Oxpeckers.org website. Africa-based EAGLE Network provides front-line reports on their operations and arrests. Also see our list of current and historical Environmental Crime Operations ►
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), established in 1990, routinely publishes data on arrests made by their growing ranks. They operate in many of the national parks and national reserves throughout Kenya and help to coordinate cross-border information sharing and operations with Tanzanian wildlife agencies as well as other anti-poaching groups. In 2013 the efforts of KWS yielded 1,549 total arrests and prosecutions for environmental crimes and a recovery of 10,106 kilograms (22,280 pounds) of bushmeat and 23,145 kg (51,025 pounds) of ivory (KWS Annual Report 2013, pages 15-16).
Notes: In 2007 and 2008 KWS has provided itemized arrest data for illegal grazing (local farmers allowing their livestock to graze on public property), bushmeat poaching, possession or trafficking of wildlife trophies, water catchment destruction, and other environmental crimes. However in more recent years this data is not itemized, so only the total number of environmental crime arrests are available and as such appear below under “Arrests (Total).”
In 2013 arrests related to environmental crimes were down significantly compared to 2011 (most recent available data), however ivory recovery was up significantly. This may be due to ivory recovery statistics reflecting efforts from outside Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) jurisdiction or through coordination with other anti-trafficking task forces.
Data that is unavailable (DU) has been omitted to reduce erroneous speculation or estimation.
Environmental Crimes, Arrests, and Product Recovery (2007-2013)
|Kenya – Environmental Crimes||2007||2008||2009||2010||2011||2012||2013|
|Arrests (Total)||2,179||3,476||Data Unavailable||2,539||2,638||DU||1,549|
|Arrests (Bushmeat Poaching)||239||334||DU||332||DU||DU||DU|
|Arrests (Wildlife Trafficking/Possession)||115||114||DU||DU||DU||DU||DU|
|Recovered Animal Skins (pieces)||195||240||DU||DU||DU||337||140|
|Recovered Ivory (kg)||649.60||857.20||DU||DU||DU||2,646.32||23,145.00|
|Recovered Bushmeat (kg)||15,334.00||7,445.00||DU||7,515.50||DU||6,746.00||10,106.00|
|Recovered Rhino Horn (kg)||0.00||DU||DU||DU||12.30||14.00||45.05|
|Recovered Wood Products (kg)||DU||132,892.00||79,444.00||23,170.00||DU||DU||DU|
Sources: Kenya Wildlife Service Annual Report 2008, KWS Annual Report 2009, KWS Annual Report 2010, KWS Annual Report 2011, KWS Annual Report 2012, KWS Annual Report 2013.
Notes: Data for 2009 is significantly incomplete based on the KWS Annual Report 2009. Data for 2014 and 2015 is not yet available to the public.
Nepal – नेपाल
After a significant deterioration of its environment, as well as wildlife loss due to poaching, Nepal has recently taken strong measures to reverse the causes and created community education programs (page 13) as well as conservation programs (page 11) for a host of wildlife species including Bengal tiger, leopard, snow leopard, greater one-horned rhino (Indian rhino). The majority of the country’s roughly 407 rhinoceros (page 11) reside within Chitwan National Park where protected zones and a program to better distribute the rhino across protected areas has yielded positive results.
In 2007 legislation and law enforcement efforts had culminated in more than 100 successful prosecutions (page 11) relating to wildlife crimes, each with a fine of NRs 100,000 ($1,500 in 2007) and/or a jail sentence of up to 15 years.
South Africa has the largest populations of rhinoceros of any African nation. For a number of reasons the famous Kruger National Park, an expansive 19,633 square kilometers (7,580 sq. mi), is the largest target in southern Africa. South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs as well as the South African National Parks (SAN Parks) typically releases quarterly data on both rhinoceros poaching statistics and arrests of suspected poachers. SAN Parks does not release statistics on anti-poaching rangers and military injured or killed in the line of duty.
In a 2014 year-end report SAN Parks reports that 1,020 rhinoceros have been killed by poachers and 344 suspected poachers neutralized. More recent data reported by the South African Department Environmental Affairs indicates 1,215 rhinos were poached in 2014 and 386 poachers, couriers, and syndicate members have been arrested or killed. In the 2015 annual report Minister of the Environment Edna Molewa reports that throughout calendar year 2015 there were 317 suspected poachers arrested, a 23% increase over 2014 when 258 individuals were arrested. This conflicts with their own reports that at least 344 people were arrested or neutralized during 2014 (other sources suggest 386 arrests, as shown below), suggesting that perhaps as many as 128 suspected poachers and traffickers were killed or arrested in other jurisdictions that year.
Data reported by SAN Parks or the South African Department of Environment frequently reports number of “arrests” related to poaching. However an interview from August 2014 with Major-General Johan Jooste suggests that the number of arrests reported is actually the number of people arrested or killed. Therefore the below statistics have been amended to reflect the ambiguity of the term “neutralized” to describe these poachers. Mozambique’s former president Joaquim Chissano, who served from 1986 to 2005, claims that from 2010 through 2014 nearly 500 Mozambicans were killed in Kruger National Park by South African rangers and law enforcement.
It is crucial to note that as of 2016 the South African Department of Environmental Affairs is now reporting figures for Kruger National Park as “both within and outside the Kruger National Park” which obfuscates the surrounding provinces which previously had been reported separately. The figure of 417 arrests for Kruger would be a substantial increase from the number neutralized in previous years, however we expect the actual number of arrests inside the park to be closer to the 202 arrests made in 2015. The data summarizing the year 2016 (PDF) shows that 680 individuals were arrested or killed nationally as a result of law enforcement and anti-poaching actions in South Africa.
The year 2017 saw 518 arrests of suspected poachers and traffickers made nationwide while 401 arrests were made in 2018. This decline in the number of arrests correlates to the reduced rhino poaching being reported. A preliminary report for the first half of 2019 indicates that there were 122 suspected poachers arrested in Kruger National Park and a further 131 suspected poachers arrested throughout the rest of South Africa, for a total of 253 arrests. Many court cases from previous years remain unresolved and more than half of the individuals arrested in 2018 have not had their cases finalized.
Poachers, Couriers, Syndicate Members Neutralized (2010 – 31 July, 2019)
|South Africa – Poachers Arrested or Killed||2010||2011||2012||2013||2014||2015||2016||2017||2018||31 July, 2019|
|Kruger National Park||67||82||73||133||174||202||417||189||229||122|
|Mpumalanga (MP)||16||73||66||34||45||≥ 4||DU||DU||DU||DU|
|North West (NW)||2||21||32||26||14||≥ 3||DU||DU||DU||DU|
|Eastern Cape (EC)||7||2||0||0||2||DU||DU||DU||DU||DU|
|Free State (FS)||0||0||6||7||0||DU||DU||DU||DU||DU|
|KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)||25||4||20||63||68||≥ 1||DU||DU||DU||DU|
|Western Cape (WC)||2||0||0||0||1||DU||DU||DU||DU||DU|
|Northern Cape (NC)||0||0||1||0||0||DU||DU||DU||DU||DU|
Source: Media Release: Rhino poaching statistics 20 November 2014, South African Department of Environmental Affairs. 2014/2015 Arrest Statistics Media Release by ZA DEA (1, 2, and 3). 2016 Media Release by ZA DEA. Updated 2015-2016 data from ZA DEA National Environmental Compliance Enforcement Report 2017 (PDF). ZA DEA Progress on ISMR January, 2018. ZA DEA Progress on ISMR September, 2018. ZA DEA Progress on ISMR February, 2019, and ZA DEA Report on First Half of 2019.
Like other East African nations, Tanganyika and Zanzibar (later unified as Tanzania) are known to have played a major role in the well-documented East African ivory trade which for nearly a century, and likely the better part of two centuries, provided the world with ivory. Since the democratization and stabilization of East Africa after decolonization, Tanzania and especially Kenya, have been viewed as the leaders in wildlife conservation, especially in regards to elephants.
In 2014 the Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU) was formed with part of its duty to investigate and arrest major wildlife traffickers acting within the country. Since the special unit’s creation they have made hundreds of arrests, participated in several high-profile operations including Operation “SpiderNet,” as well as made the arrests of two major wildlife traffickers: Yang Feng Lan, a Chinese national known as “Ivory Queen,” and Boniface Matthew Mariango, known to Tanzanian law enforcement as “Shetani” or “Devil.” Read more on Environmental Crime Operations ►
In the one-year period from June 2016 to June 2017 the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism announced that 3,185 people were arrested in relation to poaching wildlife or timber. However, the number of those arrested that were actually charged with a crime was said to be at least 1,500. During this time 270 firearms and 1,058 rounds of ammunition were confiscated. This represents a lower ratio of firearms expected to be carried by a group of poachers, which is one for every three people, however some types of poachers use of bows and poison arrows in Kenya and Tanzania and this may account for the discrepancy. Read more on Faces of the Poachers ►
Greatly effected by years of government-sponsored poaching (page 21), trafficking by foreign diplomats (pages 21-22), and lax enforcement of anti-poaching laws, Zimbabwe remains a region with great political and economic strife that fails to effectively utilize or protect its dwindling wildlife populations and natural resources. It also suffers from significant corruption and poverty, with an estimated 84% of its citizens unemployed while official unemployment figures vary from 60-90%.
In October of 2015 the Zimbabwean government reported that 876 Zimbabwean nationals had been arrested that year, as were 44 foreigners, for poaching. These figures included the arrest of five game rangers caught poisoning elephants as well as all types of subsistence, commercial, and criminal poachers. At least 22 suspected poachers, 6 of them foreigners, were killed. Some of these individuals were killed during shootouts with rangers working for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. The number of arrests leading to prosecution and ultimately conviction is unknown and the reliability of Zimbabwe’s official statistics is considered to be low. Their statistics may be inflated or whitewashed.