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It is called the “wildlife trade” when people trade and sell living or dead wild animals and plants. This practice has a direct effect on biodiversity and also has an effect on wildlife.


People have been selling and buying wildlife products for years. Wildlife trading is quite profitable and that is one of the reasons why many countries take part in it (Research source: Global Environmental Facility). 

Animal trade can be legal or illegal:

  1. Legal Wildlife Trade

  • If you buy or sell illegally, treaties like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) make sure that it’s safe to do so (CITES).
  • There are rules for how countries that are part of CITES trade with each other in the wildlife trade. It helps to keep both plant and animal species from being overused.
  • This treaty protects species that are at risk of extinction, preventing them from becoming extinct. However, not all countries that legally trade in wildlife follow the rules.
  1. Illegal Wildlife Trade

  • Illegal wildlife trade is when people buy, sell, smuggle, and collect wildlife and its products without the proper permission. It is also called “wildlife crime.”
  • This type of trade is thought to be worth between $7 and $23 billion a year. It harms the population of plants and animals.
  • They are at risk of going extinct because they are being over-exploited. This is mostly because the illegal trade of wildlife products isn’t regulated or kept an eye on.
wildlife trade facts


The wildlife trade has a huge impact on biodiversity. There has been a lot of illegal trading of wildlife products, which has caused a lot of species to die out (Research source: European Commission).

The illegal animal trade has a huge impact on biodiversity. There has been a lot of illegal trading of wildlife products, which has caused a lot of species to die out.

  • Because of the trade of wildlife, there is a decrease in the number of different species. Healthy ecosystems have plants and animals that depend on each other in many different ways.
  • The plant population can change when certain animal species are killed off. For example, if all the lions are killed, the number of gazelle will dramatically rise.
  • As a result, the gazelles will eat too much of the vegetation cover. In the long run, this can lead to the loss of plant species in a given ecosystem
  • This trade also encourages people to steal. This is one of the main threats to the world’s many species.
  • Due to the illegal trade in illegal wildlife, animal species from different parts of the world have died out.
  • Most of the species that are left are either vulnerable or critically endangered. This means that if the trade of wildlife is not controlled, they are likely to become extinct.


Illegal wildlife trade targets specific animal species. Many of the animals killed and sold illegally are considered valuable. In areas where poaching and illegal wildlife trade is taking place, animals are mostly killed for profits. (Research source: TRAFFIC)

commonly traded animals
  1. Pangolins

  • Each year, a lot of pangolins are killed in Asia and Africa. They are mostly hunted for their meat and scales.
  • There is a high demand for pangolin scales in countries such as Vietnam and China. People from these regions believe that pangolin scales are medicinal.
  • Most of the people who buy and sell pangolin products in the illegal wild trade black market don’t know each other. They are anonymous.
  • Four of the eight species of pangolins are thought to be at risk. The last four species are very close to extinction.
  • The illegal wildlife trade is the main reason that pangolin populations around the world are declining.
  1. Elephants

  • This is because there are now less than 500,000 elephants left in the wild because of the illegal trade in animal parts. 415,00 are from Africa. Less than 40,000 are from Asia.
  • All over the world, there are people who are illegally poaching elephants. As a result, elephants are thought to be endangered, but they are also thought to be vulnerable in some parts of the world.
  • Elephants are mostly killed because of their tusks. So poachers kill these animals to make money. Ivory is very valuable on the black market.
  • A lot of Chinese people want elephant tusks because they think they’re beautiful. Ivory is often used to make jewelry, but it can also be carved into many different things.
  • As many as 40,000 elephants are killed every year. There will soon be nothing left of elephants if the illegal trade of their products isn’t stopped.
  1. Tigers

  • Tigers are found mostly in Asia. More than 3,900 tigers lived in the wild as of 2020. Many tigers are likely to be lost in the next few years.
  • As many as 5,000 Tigers are kept in captivity, it is thought to be the case Most of these animals live in sanctuaries to stop people from taking them.
  • This is why these animals are hunted. They are killed for their skins, bones, and other parts. It’s also true that some people believe that tiger products are good for you.
  • There are a lot of tigers being sold illegally in the animal trade every single year. China has a big black market for tiger parts, which encourages people to kill tigers for their parts.
  • This is because there is a lot of demand for tiger products.
  1. Rhinos

  • They are illegally sold in Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world to make money. The rhino horn is used for medicine in most Asian countries.
  • They grind the horns into powder. However, there is no scientific evidence that rhino horn is good for you.
  • Most of the rhinos in the world live in South Africa, and most of them live there. The rhinos in this area, especially the ones at Kruger National Park, are being killed in large amounts.
  • There are less than 27,000 rhinos left in the wild, and the number is expected to fall.
  • Having rhinos outside of game reserves would make them easy targets for poachers. So, most of them can live in reserves.


There are a lot of groups around the world that are working to stop illegal wildlife trade. The International Fund for Animal Welfare protects the wildlife population by making sure each species is safe.

Other conservation groups teach law enforcement officers how to stop the illegal trade of wildlife products, like tigers and bears. People in the area are told not to buy animal products that are thought to be illegal. Finally, government agencies are also working on finding those responsible for the illegal wildlife trade on the black market.

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