Conservation Crime by the Numbers


Talia Salem


Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Fuller Symposium on Conservation Crime put on by the World Wildlife Fund. Taking place at the National Geographic Society Headquarters in Washington, D.C., the event offered a compelling mix of speakers from various touch points in conservation crime from WWF staff and scientists to wildlife forensics and technology experts. When looking at the scale and prevalence of wildlife crime it is helpful to put this illegal “industry” in context. Crawford Allan of Traffic North America and WWF-US opened the event and framed the conversation with some alarming statistics about the current state of the crisis.

Here is Conservation Crime by the Numbers:

  • $10 billion annually: the worth of the illegal wildlife trade—the fifth largest type of crime internally.
  • 73 million: the number of sharks traded annually for their fins, used primarily in shark-fin soup.
  • 3,000%: The percent increase in rhino poaching since 2007, largely driven by the use of rhino horn as a hangover cure in Vietnam.
  • 27 metric tons: the amount of ivory seized in 2011 from 17 large-scale shipments. This figure represents around 4,000 killed elephants
  • 1 ranger per week: The estimated rate rangers are killed protecting wildlife in Africa.
  • 300: the number of elephants killed in one incident in Cameroon.

While these numbers can be discouraging, there are some improvements in conservation crime and Crawford himself was optimistic. “I don't believe [conservation crime] is unstoppable, this is not an unstoppable tragedy. We really can make a difference,” Crawford said. (For more from Crawford’s talk, watch the video here.) One way to stop wildlife crime is to place economic value on these live animals through sustainable tourism. Stay tuned for more on that topic in the coming weeks.