top of page
Illegal Wildlife Trade

The Wildlife Trade is the

Fourth Most Lucrative Illegal

Trade in the World!


Although the term “poaching” conjures scenes of far-flung lands where exotic animals such as elephants and Bengal tigers are always in demand, the practice of illegally killing or capturing wildlife isn’t just the domain of the developing world. It’s also a problem in the United States, and specifically here in Colorado. CPW issues about 3,300 poaching citations each year. Many more instances likely go undetected: By some estimates, poachers claim as many animals in the Centennial State as lawful hunters do.

According to Bob Thompson, CPW’s lead wildlife investigator, this can have devastating effects on the state’s wildlife populations. In southeastern Colorado, for example, box turtle populations have plummeted after poachers began scooping them up to sell to the pet industry. And poachers who use illegal means to target trophy animals can weaken entire herds. “When you take the dominant males out of the population, you leave the inferior males to breed,” Thompson says, “and that impacts the genetics of the herd and affects their vigor.”




A recent report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature showed that between 1970 and 2014 the vertebrate population declined by an average of 60 percent. While this was mostly due to habitat loss, the illegal trade in wildlife—whether rhino horn, tiger bone, or animals captured for the exotic pet market—poses a growing threat to many species’ survival

The most obviously affected animals are the big, charismatic megafauna, like rhinos, elephants, tigers, and even bears. In reality, though, we’re talking about millions of individual animals of thousands of species. It spans poaching for jewelry, pets, traditional medicines, trophies, or wild meat, which some cultures consider a luxury item. This is a global trade. However, much of the demand for illegal wildlife products is in Asia, especially in China and Vietnam. That’s predominantly because wealth in those places has been increasing over the past decades, so people who previously could not afford things like ivory jewelry or rhino horn carvings now can do so. There’s more demand than there is supply.



Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center is a proud member of the AZA Wildlife Trafficking Alliance



  • Between 35,000 – 50,000 African Elephants are Poached EVERY Year.

  • There are More Tigers in American Backyards Than in the Wild.

  • Three Rhinos are Poached Every day.

  • More Than One Million Pangolins Have Been Traded in the Past 10 Years.

  • Approximately 28,300 Freshwater Turtles are Traded Each DAY.

  • Around 30 Percent of the
    Asian Elephant Population is in Captivity.


  • The Illegal Wildlife Trade Generates Between Five and 20 Billion Dollars, Annually.

  • Over the Past 25 Years,
    the Wholesale Price of Ivory in China has Risen from Five Dollars to 2,100 Dollars.


  • Over 1,000 Rangers Have Been Killed in the Past 10 Years.


Saving Animals From Extinction focuses the collective expertise within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and leverages their massive audiences to save species.


Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center is a proud member of AZA SAFE

bottom of page