With the high prices being paid for animal parts in the illicit wildlife trade the criminal gangs are scenting big profits!  This trade is now the fifth biggest illicit business on earth, following drugs, armaments and the like, and estimated to rake in around $10 billion each year and growing.

Periodically countries, their representative organisations, or NGO’s, gather to pontificate, pass recommendations and even the occasional law, to stem the illegal trade but it continues and in many cases grows. The most recent such exercise saw 41 countries, including two of the principal recipients of illegal animal parts, Japan and China, pass new laws outlawing this trade. 

But how do you stem a trade that sees some animal parts being sold, gram for gram, at greater prices than gold or cocaine?  The content of a bear gall bladder sold in Japan fetches prices six times higher than the average street price for cocaine in Asia, rhino horn has a street value in the vicinity of around $60 000.- per kilogram, some say as high as $100 000.-!  Bears, especially Asian Black Bears, African Elephant, the five rhino species, musk deer, Tiger, Leopard, Lion and many others are slaughtered to principally provide the traditional medicine trade. The exception is elephant ivory which is sought after for its aesthetic beauty, in its raw state or carved!

Despite the resources poured into a park such as South Africa’s Kruger the rhinos are slaughtered piecemeal.  In fact in that park the situation appears to be deteriorating as poachers from Mozambique run rampant and at least in some cases SANParks staff are involved. Of course the poachers only receive a small percentage of the end price for rhino horn but that often amounts to a year, or more, of honestly earned income back in the home country. Rumours are circulating that SANParks is set to move hundreds of rhino out of Kruger, to apparently safer locals. 

Rhinoceros horn-  $60 000.- to $100 000.- per kg

Elephant ivory- about $2100.- per kg

Bear gall bladder- at least $10 000.-

Raw bear bile- at least $24 000.- per kg (to $400 000.- has been claimed)

Tiger bones - $140.- to $370.- per kg but we have seen much higher figures.

A bowl of Tiger penis soup in Taiwan could set you back $320.-

Sadly, the list is long and unless the end users are convinced not to use these products, populations of many creatures will continue to dwindle.