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10 Most Trafficked Animals On Earth. by Taamas222 (f): 12:40pm on June 11
Junior Taamas
, Nigeria.
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On a planet with finite resources, more
human demand is placed on many
species than supply exists. This
contribution to the endangerment of
species causes conservation laws to be
passed to protect dwindling wildlife.
Sadly, the rarest are often the most
wanted. Thus, legal protection measures
may be skirted by the insatiable
traffickers of rare species. In this
account, we profile the “most stolen”
animals in nature – the dubious record
holders for being the most trafficked
species on the planet.

10. Macaws

The undisputable kings and queens of the
parrot world, macaws, measuring more
than three feet in length and adorned in
extraordinary multicolored plumes and
bare parts, are prime targets of
poachers. Able to talk, possessing great
intelligence and holding an iconic status
among rainforest birds, macaws of a
variety of species are being pushed
towards extinction by poaching for the
pet trade. Species like the Scarlet Macaw
and the brilliant blue and gold colored
Hyacinth Macaw, the world’s largest
parrot are threatened by capture and
shipment in defiance of carefully enacted
bird conservation regulations at local,
national and international levels.
Many die in shipment or in long-term
captivity, while wild populations are
reduced beyond self-sustaining and
resilient levels by the poaching.

Fortunately, conservationists are learning
effective ways of combatting the
carnage. Sometimes, this means taking
truly extreme measures of dedication
and endurance at great cost to human
comfort. A most dramatic example is the
avian bodyguard crew of rangers in
Belize, who camp out in inclement
weather, night and day for the 5-month
long portion of the Scarlet Macaw
breeding season when chicks are being
cared for. Known as the Scarlet Six
Biomonitoring Team, the group of five
Belizean citizens and a single American
citizen are dedicated to stopping insane
poaching levels with seemingly crazy
dedication, and in this single case among
the huge parrot poaching problem, it
has been working.

9. African Elephants

African Elephants are the largest land
animals in the modern natural world.

Their illegal killing for ivory products by
poachers is also a huge problem on
equal par with the size of the animals. So
much so that poaching and elephant
poaching are often synonymous in
popular discussion across much of
Africa. The year 1989 was when the
Convention on the International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITES) enacted a
global ban on the international trade in
elephant tusk ivory following declines in
the 1980s that were driven by poaching
of up to 100,000 elephants annually
across Africa. Many regions saw the
complete loss of herds, while others
were severely thinned.

China is the largest global market for
ivory, where the product finds its way
into a wide variety of consumer goods.
Increasing environmental education on
the consumer market end is key, while
stopping poaching in elephant habitat
represents the other side of the
equation. A sadly regular sight across
parts of Africa has been piles of
confiscated elephant tusks, stacked like a
macabre effigy ready to be burned, part
of an effort to combat poaching.

Tragically, many rangers tasked with
protecting the elephants have been
added to the growing body count.
Zakouma National Park in Chad has a
sad display of six rangers who were
murdered during morning prayers by
heavily armed elephant poachers. The
partnership between the Chad
government and organization African
Parks saw Zakouma transformed into a
thriving elephant sanctuary despite the
initial tragic killing of the rangers.

8. Saiga Antelope

A rare member of the ungulate order,
the Saiga Antelope is a little known
antelope among the general public but
known all too well to poachers who
target the species. Native to Central
Asian steppe habitats, the Saiga is
equipped with an enormous nose that
lends it a cartoonish appearance but
serves the practical purpose of warming
the freezing air of the Asian steppes
before it enters the lungs of the Saiga.
Unique among all animal species in
appearance, the Saiga are classified by
the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature as critically
endangered. The range of the Saiga used
to extend across Mongolia and into
China, and included Moldova and
Romania, but has dwindled to occur in
parts of Russia, Kazakhstan and
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, plus
limited parts of Western Mongolia. The
species dates back to the Pleistocene era,
surviving into modern times.
Saiga are highly threatened by poaching,
adding to the disastrous effects of a
bacteria that triggered a plague killing 62
percent of the world population in 2015.

Long popular in traditional medicines of
Asia, Saiga are being shot for their
horns, which are then cut off and
ground up or made into shavings and
used as a supposed medicinal tonic.
Saiga export is strictly illegal in their
home countries, but loopholes in the
Asian market countries are sold permit
trade in stored Saga horn harvested in
the 1990s. Newly poached Saiga is thus
being disguised as legal Saiga. Armed
rangers in Kazakhstan face a tough battle
to protect the rare survivors from the
Ice Age.

7. Snow Leopard

The rare and exceptional Snow Leopard,
highly trafficked despite its small
numbers for its coat, is an iconic Asian
wild cat. With only about 4,000 of this
rare and mysterious species still present
in the wild, stopping the poachers is a
crucial task. The problem is compounded
by the poaching itself; as Snow Leopards
become rarer, the value of their pelts
becomes even higher through scarcity
and growing perceptions of exclusivity
despite illegality. While only a percentage
of Snow Leopards killed are specifically
targeted for their pelts, with protection
of livestock being a prime motivation for
many shootings, opportunism presents
itself as pelts of illegally “culled” animals
are then sold on the black market.

Like many endangered and trafficked
animals, the Snow Leopard has an
organization solely dedicated to its
survival, the increasingly powerful Global
Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection
Program (GSLEP). This program is
formed out of an alliance between the
governments of the 12 countries in
which Snow Leopards occur, specifically
Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India,
Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic,
Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia,
Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Education
campaigns and enforcement measures
are crucial to stem the flow of Snow
Leopards out of nature and into illicit
markets. High-tech solutions including
DNA analysis are being put to use,
showing the unfortunate reality of yet
another reason Snow Leopards have had
a bounty placed on their heads by
traffickers. Snow Leopard bones have
been used in medicines in lieu of
increasingly scarce tiger bones.

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Rufai Oladimeji
Lagos State University
100Level, Nigeria.
6. Birds of Prey

Birds of prey may be top predators, but
they rather ironically fall prey to
traffickers thanks to their exceptional
hunting ability. Being a status symbol in
some cultures, falcons, eagles and other
impressive meat-eating birds are
poached by collectors and those wanting
to keep birds for falconry outside of the
normal process for legally acquiring a
hunting bird. The International
Association for Falconry & Conservation
of Birds of Prey identifies poaching of
rare species, such as the crisis level
plundering of Bonelli’s Eagles in southern
Europe by criminal organization
members as key threats to raptor
conservation worldwide. In just the case
of the Bonelli’s Eagle, criminals are
putting this species at risk of extinction
just by poaching the birds in their nests.

Furthermore, given the prestigious
following of falconry and the work and
dedication of legitimate falconers, the
illegal side of working with raptors is
feared as a rogue element capable of
giving an undeserved bad name to
falconry. As a result of the short term
gain available to the poachers who try all
types of methods of snaring and seizing
young and adult birds of prey,
population declines and disturbance and
destruction of nesting sites has become a
growing threat that makes birds of prey
among the most aggressively poached
types of wildlife on the planet.

5. Hawksbill Turtles

Thinking about getting a sea turtle shell
as a souvenir? Or even just a small piece
of jewelry fashioned from the remains of
an unfortunate sea reptile? Think again.
Sea turtles are enigmatic and
charismatic, and that makes them an
unfortunate target of poachers on the
high seas and beaches alike. The rare
Hawksbill Turtle, heavily trafficked for
the ornamental uses of its carapace, is
one example of the sea turtle plundering
problem described by the brilliantly
named organization “Too Rare to Wear” ,
which also offers website visitors a
button to report turtle shell products.
Hawksbill Turtles have seen their global
population fall by around 85 percent in
the last 100 years, affected not
only through bycatch but also as a result
of persistent poaching activity.

Furthermore, the sea turtles have a
pattern of turning up in remote areas
where they are easily taken by poachers,
vulnerable by being too far away from
the watchful eye of conservation
authorities. The Hawksbill Turtles are
fully protected from being harvested in
the majority of countries, yet poachers
brazenly go afoul of the law due to the
demand for turtle products and prices
that can be fetched by a good shell,
often merely made into tourist trinkets.
Red listed as critically endangered,
Hawksbills need your help and the best
way is to refuse to partake in the
carnage by voting with your dollar when
offered trinkets or other sea turtle
products for sale.

4. Sharks

Move over, Jaws propaganda. Sharks are
in far more trouble from humans than
humans are from sharks, and we can
thank the truly terrifying shark
traffickers for the crisis. Sharks of
several species, preyed upon for their
fins (used in soup), are being killed in
extraordinary numbers, their body parts
trafficked around the globe for
unnecessary culinary use. Close to 73
million sharks end up being slaughtered
for their fins yearly in a gruesome and
abusive practice that involves cutting the
fins of live sharks, which are then cruelly
thrown back to die minus their fins, also
wasting the meat.

Canada is partially to blame to date in
the global crisis, despite a ban on shark
finning in Canadian waters, as the largest
importer of shark fins outside of Asia,
where demand is especially high for
shark fin soup. Canadian environmental
legislators have failed to ban the
importation of shark fins previously,
though as of 2019 efforts are underway
to enact a ban through the House of
Commons. Filmmaker Rod Stewart
produced the documentary Sharkwater in
2007, followed by Sharkwater Extinction
in 2018 to highlight the plight of sharks
and the need for stricter regulations to
stop both trafficking and trade permitted
through legal loopholes. In 2017,
170,000 kilograms of shark fins were
imported into Canada, representing a 60
percent increase from 2012. A petition
is available to request a Canadian ban on
shark fin importation.

3. Rhinoceroses

Save the Rhino International is just one
of the organizations and initiatives
centered around combatting the illegal
trade in the horns of critically
endangered rhinoceros species. Real life
unicorns, rhinoceroses are huge
ungulates that rank as some of the
largest megafauna on the planet. They
are also among the most wanted, given
that all rhinoceros are critically
endangered except for one species of
White Rhinoceros, the Southern White
Rhinoceros. While banned internationally
under CITES, the international rhino horn
trade poses a massive threat to rhinos
that continues anyways thanks to the
demand for rhinoceros horn based
elixirs and supposed medicines. Jewelry
is made from rhino horn, while the
“elixir” made from rhino horn often
becomes a symbol of power and social
standing , driving poaching.
Growing levels of poaching have placed
rhinos as prime targets among the
world’s most heavily trafficked animals.
In just two years, South Africa saw 1,000
rhinos poached, from 2017 to 2019.

Conservationists have enacted some
rather drastic measures, comes with its
share of controversy. Poison has been
placed in the horns of living rhinos by
the Rhino Rescue Project, contaminating
the horns but not the rhinos, making
them unmarketable as the goal. Other
measures enacted have included cutting
off the horns on living rhinos to
dissuade poachers from making a kill.

2. Tigers

Tigers, trafficked for their fur and bones,
are the world’s greatest cats. Although
lions have been hailed as the “King of
Beasts” tigers are actually larger, holding
the world record for size. With their
extraordinary skin and various myths
about the medicinal properties endowed
by their bones and other body parts,
including blood and even unlikely parts
such as claws which are thought to
harbor special properties. Tragically,
superstition and the desire for the odd
aesthetic of a tiger skin has driven wild
tiger numbers down to an all-time low of
around 3,000 wild tigers.
Their dwindling numbers are spread out
across countries as diverse as Russia,
India and Malaysia, while also
represented in China, Nepal and
Bangladesh among other Asian countries.

Organized criminal gangs are frequently
interrupted trafficking the parts of
butchered tigers and their skins into
Asian markets, where the demand for
tiger wine, made from bones and their
skin or even just charms made from tiger
claws presents sufficient return for their
effort, coupled with penalties that are
insufficient and light enforcement in
many areas. To combat the highly
lucrative trade, conservation initiatives
such as Traffic , which established
International Tiger Day on July 29, rely
on education to reduce demand. Higher
tech routes have been taken, including
working with the Indian government to
create Tigernet, which assists in tracking
and apprehending poachers. The Wildlife
Protection Society of India set up a
system for informants to turn in
poachers for a cash reward and also
hires traveling informants.

1. Pangolins

Some creatures seem to exist just to defy
our attempts to classify them. Pangolins
are warm blooded, bonafide mammals
related to normal mammals like mice and
tigers, but bearing the likeness of a
scaled dragon or other mythical reptile.

Pangolins make up eight species: four
African in origin and four Asian species.
Pangolins, related to the carnivores most
closely among their mammal relatives,
boast the distinction of being the world’s
only scaled mammals but also hold the
dubious distinction of being the world’s
most trafficked animals. Shockingly, this
one rare and endangered type of animal
accounts for a staggering trafficking
count of approximately 100,000 animals
per year , according to WildAid, a
conservation organization heroically
working to curb the slaughter, creating
awareness through celebrity support,
assisted by renowned Asian celebrities
Jackie Chan and Angelababy.

The International Union for Conservation
of Nature has designated all species as
critically endangered, while international
bans on any cross-border transport have
been enacted as of 2016. Nevertheless,
poaching persists, keeping pangolins in
their unfortunate most trafficked spot.

Pangolins are used as traditional
medicine at unsustainable levels, have
taken hold as a popular food item,
especially in Southeast Asia and are taken
from the wild as exotic pets and used to
make exotic jewelry, garments and
ornamentation, thanks to their scales.

The trade in pangolin products goes back
a long time, for even King George III
received pangolin armor. In addition to
the massive quantities of pangolins
trafficked, over 100 trafficking routes
have been documented.


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