World Wildlife Crime Report – Trafficking in Protected Species

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The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has issued a report, “World Wildlife Crime Report – Trafficking in Protected Species” 2020.

Lion, jaguar and leopard body parts are being increasingly sought as substitutes to tiger products by traffickers, a major UN report has found, but demand for ivory and rhino horn has shown signs of a sustained fall……..A rise in seizures of tiger products, which commonly include bones for tiger wine and tiger paste in China and Vietnam, has meant that traffickers are increasingly sourcing parts from other big cats, passing them off as tiger products in some cases.

The report found evidence of clouded leopard, snow leopard and jaguar parts used in this way, although there was particular concern about African lions, owing to a significant rise in the South African breeding industry” – “Wildlife traffickers target lion, jaguar and leopard body parts as tiger substitutes,” The Guardian, 10 July 2020



Elephant Ivory Market – “Based on just the five major seizures cited above, it appears the global seizure trend will reverse in 2019. Poaching data for 2019 are not yet available but would have to reverse starkly to match the seizure trend. Unless evidence of renewed poaching emerges, this suggests either an increase in interdiction rate or the use of stocks rather than freshly poached elephants” – World Wildlife Crime Report – Trafficking in Protected Species,” page 56

Rhino Horn Market – “Unlike ivory, [rhino horn] seizures show a clear and consistent upward trend. This could be due to improvements in the rate of interdiction or a genuine increase in the flow. If the flow has increased as poaching has decreased, this could suggest the new supply is coming from existing stocks. Many of these stockpiles are in private hands and can be sold in some range states. Sellers may be motivated by declining prices and possibly declining interest”  – World Wildlife Crime Report – Trafficking in Protected Species,” page 63

Tigers – “It is estimated that there are up to three times as many tigers in captivity (estimated at 12,574), 91 per cent of which are held in 716 facilities in seven countries for which data are available: China, the United States of America, Thailand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, India, Viet Nam and South Africa…..Captive breeding of Appendix I species, such as tigers for the international commercial trade of these captive-bred species and their parts is permitted but strictly regulated under CITES and can only be carried out by facilities registered with the CITES Secretariat. There are no captive tiger facilities registered under this system….. Many captive breeding facilities appear to be operated in a manner that would not seem to align with this CITES Decision (14.69). Breeding of tigers for commercial purposes is thus contrary to this Decision, although this alone may be perfectly legal [abuse and exploitation] in some countries according to domestic legislation” – World Wildlife Crime Report – Trafficking in Protected Species,” page 81 – Note: Page 82, Table 1  shows some 1,038 known facilities and over 12,500 tigers (and Appendix I species) held, but not even one of these captive tiger facility across the entire globe is registered with CITES – and not one sanction by CITES for any country for failing to comply with Decision 14:69 (captive tigers only for non-commercial purposes) since 2007 as far as I am aware – it’s a farce!

Big Cat Breeding – South Africa – “UNODC fieldwork in South Africa suggests that exporters sometimes illegally combine tiger bones with lion bone exports, the two being difficult to distinguish. Examples of illegal trade in tiger bone from South Africa to Asia have been detected. There have also been instances where tiger and lion bone coming from legal captive-breeding facilities in South Africa have been seized in connection with the same organized criminal group. A recent CITES study also found indications that much of the lion bone legally imported into Southeast Asia was then likely being illegally re-exported internationally. The same study reported multiple court cases relating to “tiger bones” seized from illegal trade in China, which, when tested, turned out to be lion bones” – World Wildlife Crime Report – Trafficking in Protected Species,” page 86

Big Cat Breeding – United States of America – “In the United States, privately-owned commercial entertainment facilities (parks, zoos, etc.) in several states have engaged in breeding and crossbreeding of big cats….. The presence of cubs is a fundamental ingredient for the commercial success of these facilities, but also poses a considerable challenge because cubs are no longer suitable for petting after age two to three months. To reduce the costs of maintaining adult tigers, many are sold, sometimes on the black market to collectors, unaccredited zoos, or are killed by their owners….. In the United States, there is no federal law that prohibits the possession and sale of big cats and exotic pets.”

“….the Lacey Act prohibits the import, export, interstate commerce and sale of fish, wildlife and plants taken in violation of international laws or laws in the country of origin……. The Big Cat Public Safety Act has been introduced in both houses of the United States Congress. The Act would create an overarching federal law on ownership of big cats as pets and would ban public handling (including cub petting) and prohibit breeding that did not fall under specifically managed Species Survival Plan conservation breeding programs. It is currently being considered by the United States Congress to help control the possible exploitation of big cat breeding facilities by organized crime and other black market actors” – World Wildlife Crime Report – Trafficking in Protected Species,” page 88

[Update] Pangolin – While the poaching of both elephants and rhinoceroses has been in decline since 2011, as have the prices paid for tusks and horns, the amount of pangolin scales seized has increased 10-fold in just five years. New markets, such as the trafficking of European glass eels, have also emerged .

“We warmly welcome this Report, which reminds us of the highly destructive scale and nature of these serious organized crimes, and once again reinforces the need to treat them as serious crimes”, said End Wildlife Crime (EWC) Chair John Scanlon – EWC Media Release, 14 July 2020


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