Wildlife Trafficking and Criminal Profits

Wildlife Trafficking & Criminal Profits

Most poachers and African criminal syndicates receive only 5-10% of the retail value for the animal parts they poach. Even in destitute parts of Africa and Asia this is little reward for what can be a very risky task of spending days tracking dangerous wildlife in their natural habitat. Coordinated efforts to exterminate rhino and elephants in central Africa, as well as systematic poaching in Southeast Asia and China, have made it easier for criminal syndicates to organize a market for tiger and leopard skins, elephant ivory, and rhino horn. This has provided a channel for low-level poachers and high-level rebel militias to sell their animal parts to middlemen who then smuggle the cargo en mass to destinations around the globe where the items are sold for exorbitant prices.

In 2013 the street-price for rhino horn in Asia was $60,000-100,000 per kilogram. At roughly $1,700-2,840 per ounce, more than the price of gold, it was believed to be a better investment than real estate and an easy way to show off wealth. According to anti-poaching forces in South Africa a Mozambican poacher would earn R100,000 ($10,000) per hunt or over R200,000 per horn depending on the middleman.

In January of 2015 Ugandan officials seized a shipment of 137 ivory tusks weighing 700 kg and destined for Amsterdam. The ivory in this shipment had an estimated street value of $1.5 million or $2,142 per kilo or roughly $973 per pound. As a result of international pressure to end the illicit ivory trade, as well as other factors impacting legal domestic markets where elephant ivory is still sold, the average price of ivory in China has fallen to $730 per kilogram ($331 per pound).

India’s diverse ecosystems suffer from the loss of its the native species of Bengal tigerleopardIndian rhinoceros, and Asian elephant. In 2009 a single tiger skin smuggled from India would sell for 650,000 rupees in China, approximately $134,000 or 91,920 yuan. However in recent years poaching and wildlife trafficking have received more attention and more poachers and traffickers are being sentenced to jail time for their crimes.