One of the most dangerous threats to global biodiversity is the illegal wildlife trade. The illegal wildlife trade is an international multi-million dollar industry in which protected species are poached and traded for money. This industry greatly threats a healthy biodiversity in that it disrupts nature’s balance of species diversity, places animals in unnatural habitats, and introduces invasive species to unideal areas. For example, the Burmese python, illegally introduced into Florida is now considered an invasive pest in the southern wetlands.
Certain cultures in Southeast Asia believe rhino horns possess healing powers, and will purchase the illegally poached goods for a price that rivals that of gold’s. Populations of countries such as Mexico, the United States, and some southern European nations trade millions of dollars for tiger skins, shark teeth, and skins for cosmetic or decorative purposes. There are laws that nations have set up to try to combat this industry, but they are weak and not effectively enforced. At the same time, most of the laws in place only succeed in arresting the poachers themselves, typically impoverished members of illegal hunting hotspots, not the consumers of the trade themselves, usually very wealthy individuals.
“Hotspots,” or areas in which the majority of the illegal hunting occurs, are China’s international borders, South Africa, Southeast Asia, and Mexico. One of the most poached animals in these areas are rhinos. Several species of rhinos are poached every year; there was a 5000% increase in rhino poaching in South Africa from 2007 to 2012. Another targeted wild animal is the elephant, for its ivory tusks. In 2011 alone, officials across the globe reported seizing ivory accumulating 2,500 elephants. One of the most well-known endangered species are the world’s wild tigers. Unfortunately, these animals are at the top of the most-desired list in the illegal wildlife trade because of their fur, bones, and teeth. With only about 3,200 wild tigers left, this industry poses a serious threat to the survival of this species. Other animals significantly targeted by the industry are several types of turtles, leopards, and orangutans.