Illegal Wildlife Trade In The US: Bears and Crocodiles Are Popular

The illegal trafficking of wildlife and wild animal parts is the fourth largest form of criminality in the world and a major threat to global biodiversity.    (Image: via   pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
The illegal trafficking of wildlife and wild animal parts is the fourth largest form of criminality in the world and a major threat to global biodiversity. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

More than ever, American buyers are on the hunt for illegal wildlife and wild animal parts. Research from the University of Copenhagen has demonstrated that bear trophies, crocodiles, and exotic birds are coveted in the United States, while the trade in elephants and large cats has declined. The illegal trafficking of wildlife and wild animal parts is the fourth largest form of criminality in the world and a major threat to global biodiversity.

The United States is one of the world’s largest markets for wildlife products — both legally and illegally traded. Both segments have grown over the past decades according to a study headed by the University of Copenhagen. UCPH researchers investigated the development of the U.S. trade in wildlife products from 1979-2014.

UCPH researchers investigated the development of the US trade in wildlife products from 1979-2014. They discovered an increase in the number of illegal wildlife products confiscated, as well as that, while some animals have become more popular. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

UCPH researchers investigated the development of the US trade in wildlife products from 1979-2014. They discovered an increase in the number of illegal wildlife products confiscated, as well as that, while some animals have become more popular. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

They discovered an increase in the number of illegal wildlife products confiscated, as well as that, while some animals have become more popular, others have lost ground. Some of the increasingly popular illegal wildlife items that smugglers try to import include parts from bears, cetaceans, crocodiles, corals, snails and clams. Fewer elephant, rhino and cat parts are being confiscated.

Lion genitalia and live sea cucumbers

The study reports that U.S. authorities seized just over 6 million illegal items during the period investigated — some dead, others living — encompassing 3,400 different animal species. Of these thousands of species, 581 are endangered. According to biologist and head researcher Maria Therese Bager Olsen of the University of Copenhagen:

On average, nearly 2,700 kilos of illegal items were confiscated annually during the 1980s. During the period from 2000-2013, the average was 534,000 kilos per year.

Some of the increasingly popular illegal wildlife items that smugglers try to import include parts from bears, cetaceans, crocodiles, corals, snails and clams. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Some of the increasingly popular illegal wildlife items that smugglers try to import include parts from bears, cetaceans, crocodiles, corals, snails, and clams. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

As legal trade grows, illegal trafficking follows suit

According to the researchers, the overall increase in confiscated wildlife products is attributable to tighter border controls, as well as increased globalization, which has eased the travel and transportation of goods. Furthermore, dark web markets for exotic pets have emerged in recent years. Maria Therese Bager Olsen said:

At the same time, the study presents a pattern that can be useful in the global battle against future wildlife crime. Maria Therese Bager Olsen added:

Provided by: University of Copenhagen [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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