Wildlife Crime

elephant poaching africa national geographicElephants and rhinos are under more threat today than they have ever been. 

And it’s only getting worse: over 100,000 African elephants were killed for their tusks between 2010 and 2012*.

The numbers are shocking:

30,000 elephants will die this year alone.

One elephant dies every 15 minutes.

Central Africa has lost 65% of its elephant population in the last decade.

Forest elephants are on the brink of extinction.

A century ago there were 10 million elephants all over Africa. By 1989 the number dropped to 600,000. Today there about 450,000 elephants left in the wild. If poaching continues at this pace, elephants could be gone from the wild in less than 15 years.

We are facing the greatest mass extinction since the era of the dinosaurs.

rhino poaching statistics South Africa 2010_2014

In South Africa, home of the largest population of rhinoceroses, poaching numbers have risen to a staggering 1,215.

Unscrupulous investors, speculating on the disappearance of rare animals, and increased demand for animal products from Asia are pushing endangered animals into extinction.

Worldwide, the illegal trade in endangered animals is booming.

Illegal killing and trafficking are no longer just the work of individuals or small gangs but have grown into international operations run by well-equipped and organized cartels and syndicates. The poaching of wild animals has become the most lucrative black business after the trade in drugs and weapons, with an annual turnover of an estimated twenty billion dollars. The rarer or the more risk involved in obtaining the animal or animal part, the higher the price.


The reason for the increasing demand for rare animals and animal parts are the rising incomes in China and Southeast Asia, where animal parts are used in traditional medicine. Today, exotic wildlife products like rhino horn, and ivory are mostly bought as status symbols – and as lucrative investment opportunities.


Poaching not only affects local ecosystems but pose an imminent threat to local communities and economies dependent on eco-tourism, and the political stability of already vulnerable regions.


Wildlife rangers, often poorly trained and/or armed, risk their lives daily to protect these animals in a battle against heavily armed and well-organized poaching gangs and smuggling syndicates. In the last 10 years, over 1,000 rangers have been killed or injured in the line of duty. (Source: The Thin Green Line Foundation)

Thankfully governments are now seeing the fight against wildlife crime as a priority, and are putting legislation in place to decrease poaching and trafficking. Ivory and rhino horn seizures are occurring more frequently and we are seeing tougher penalties and policies aiming to curb poaching and minimize trade.

Hong Kong for Elephants_Ivory Seizures

Image Source: Alex Hofford, Hong Kong for Elephants



* Wittemyer, George, Joseph M. Northrup, Julian Blanc, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Patrick Omondi, and Kenneth P. Burnham. “Illegal Killing for Ivory Drives Global Decline in African Elephants.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.


ARTE FUTURE - Interactive

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