Research and Reports Header

Wildlife Encyclopedia

Encyclopedia of primarily high-value wildlife and other at-risk species targeted by poachers, wildlife traffickers, or sellers of traditional folk medicine. This page is a work in progress and will feature links to full articles on each species, family, or group of animals.

African Bush (Savanna) Elephants & African Forest Elephants

Both species of African elephant present high-value targets for poachers in all regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Even the rare “desert elephants” of Mali are being persecuted.

African Rhinoceroses

Both the white rhinoceros and the much smaller black rhinoceros are targeted for their horns.

Asian Elephants

Although only male Asian elephants typically have tusks, elephant populations throughout the continent are being thinned by sustained poaching of the last several decades and habitat loss. An imbalance in the number of males, who are killed for their tusks, and females is disrupting the ability for healthy females to find mates  and therefore the birthrate is dropping.

Asian Rhinoceroses

All three Asian rhinos are hunted for their horns. These are the greater one-horned rhinoceros (Indian rhinoceros), Javan rhinoceros, and Sumatran rhinoceros.


In Asia several species of bears, with the exception of the giant panda, are illegally hunted for their paws. Some bears, particularly the Asian Black Bears, Moon/Sun  Bears are also illegally caught and farmed for their bile which  is used by some practitioners of traditional Asian folk medicine.


Different from other big cats, cheetahs suffer from both poaching from their skins as well as live capture for sale as exotic pets, particularly in the Middle East illegal pet trade.


Although often mistaken for leopards, jaguars are a distinct species in the panthera family. They have a slightly more robust build and typically a shorter tail. Today, jaguars are found only to parts of Central and South America where they are targeted as substitutes for the lion bone trade that supplies Asia’s demand for traditional folk medicines.


Known for their beautiful “rosettes” instead of spots, leopards have a wide range throughout Africa and Asia. Their skins are often acquired through the illegal wildlife trade and are used by rural communities participating in a traditional lifestyle as well as by wealthy individuals as a fashion accessory or for decorating their home. Due to habitat fragmentation and loss, human-wildlife conflict with leopards is a significant problem. Read more ►


Native to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, they are a genus of great ape. Their name means “men of the forest” and they spend much of their time in trees. Their populations are dwindling due to rampant deforestation, capture for the illegal pet trade, as well as poaching.


Otter skins have been an integral part of the legal fur trade for centuries. However over-hunting and illegal hunting largely for Asian fur markets again threatens several species of otter. Read more ►


One of the most poorly known and understood groups of mammals, the eight species of pangolin across Africa and Asia are being poached in massive numbers to supply Asian practitioners of folk medicine and those who seek a culinary delicacy. Read more ►

Sea Turtles

The world’s seven distinct species of sea turtles are vital to the health of beach and shoreline environments. But they are dramatically impacted by careless trawling, beach destruction, and illegal harvesting of their eggs. Read more►


Asian nations have turned to large-scale captive breeding techniques to supply their commercial farming industry. Today, there are more tigers in captivity in China than in the wild.

Herd of African Elephants (USGOV-PD)

A herd of African elephants. (PD)



Leopard on the tree (USGOV-PD)

       A leopard in a tree. (PD)

Giant pangolin illustrated by Joseph Wolf (PD)

Illustration of a pangolin. (PD)