Summarizing the Evidence on the International Trade in Illegal Wildlife


The global trade in illegal wildlife is a multi-billion dollar industry that threatens biodiversity and acts as a potential avenue for invasive species and disease spread. Despite the broad-sweeping implications of illegal wildlife sales, scientists have yet to describe the scope and scale of the trade. Here, we provide the most thorough and current description of the illegal wildlife trade using 12 years of seizure records compiled by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. These records comprise 967 seizures including massive quantities of ivory, tiger skins, live reptiles, and other endangered wildlife and wildlife products. Most seizures originate in Southeast Asia, a recently identified hotspot for future emerging infectious diseases. To date, regulation and enforcement have been insufficient to effectively control the global trade in illegal wildlife at national and international scales. Effective control will require a multi-pronged approach including community-scale education and empowering local people to value wildlife, coordinated international regulation, and a greater allocation of national resources to on-the-ground enforcement.

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We thank TRAFFIC for support with data collection. This project was supported by funding from a Brown University Undergraduate Training and Research Award (to G.E.R.).

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Correspondence to Gail Emilia Rosen.

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Rosen, G.E., Smith, K.F. Summarizing the Evidence on the International Trade in Illegal Wildlife. EcoHealth 7, 24–32 (2010).

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  • illegal wildlife trade
  • emerging infectious diseases
  • wildlife trade
  • reptiles
  • endangered species
  • zoonotic diseases