It does not matter how fierce or beautiful they are, animals are killed for their meat, hunted down for sport and poached for their skins, tusks or horns. Each year over 30,000 elephants are killed for their ivory. Just 4% of wild tigers remain compared to a century ago. Around one million pangolins were smuggled over the last decade.
Illegally taking animals from the wild threatens many species with extinction. Poaching and transnational trafficking often finance criminal gangs and militia – and this undermines sustainable development. Wildlife crime has become one of the most lucrative forms of international organised crime, generating around 20 billion USD a year. It remains characterised by a low risk / high profit ratio that requires a wholistic approach, and the fact that contrary to smuggled goods, weapons, drugs or even humans, it is usually too late to save the animals once they are seized.
While millions of people depend on wildlife meat for subsistence, there are innovative mechanisms to reduce unsustainable hunting. But governments need to recognize that protecting animal populations means increasing law enforcement, with strict deterrents. Education and awareness-raising can also reduce demand for illegal wildlife parts and products: if no one buys the products, there is no need to kill the animals.