Edited by Lorraine Elliott and William H. Schaedla
Chapter 6: The illegal wildlife trade in global perspective
This chapter examines the complex dynamics of the illegal wildlife trade. While the trade in ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts is regarded as a high profile and pressing issue, the illegal wildlife trade spans a much greater range of species that are traded for food, jewellery, clothing, pets, medicines, ornaments and souvenirs. The trade encompasses demand that is driven by a desire for luxury products as well as for meeting daily needs for food, clothing or medicine. The illegal trade in wildlife has become increasingly sophisticated and poaching of wildlife, especially of high-value species, such as tigers, elephants and rhinoceros, has increased substantially. The emerging picture of the illegal wildlife trade is that organized criminal syndicates provide the trafficking routes and methods to join together source countries with increasingly wealthy end-user markets, primarily in Asia (Burn et al. 2011). However, these assumptions require further critical analysis to excavate the complex dynamics of the illegal wildlife trade. It is a diverse and fluid phenomenon, confounding attempts to characterize it as a singular trade that can be tackled via a common approach. The wildlife trade has legal and illegal dimensions: In the early 1990s, TRAFFIC estimated the value of legal wildlife products imported globally was around USD160 billion. In 2009, the estimated value of global imports was over USD323 billion. TRAFFIC estimated the legal trade of wildlife products into the EU [European Union] alone was worth an estimated €93 billion in 2005, and this increased to nearly €100 billion in 2009. (TRAFFIC no date) The trade in wildlife products, whether legal or illegal, is one of the most valuable businesses in the world. Furthermore, these figures only cover wildlife that is traded across international borders; there are significant levels of trade in wildlife and plants within countries which go unrecorded. As TRAFFIC points out, the underlying drivers of the increases in wildlife trade are people in wealthier countries who have become accustomed to a lifestyle that places heavy demands on wildlife products as sources of food, leather goods, timber, medicines and textiles (TRAFFIC no date).
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