The illegal wildlife trade is now the world’s fifth-largest illicit transnational activity, after counterfeiting and the illegal trafficking of drugs, people, and oil, according to Global Financial Integrity in Washington.
It is worth as much as $10 billion a year, and surging demand for elephant ivory in China and Thailand and rhino horn in Vietnam made 2011 the deadliest for more than two decades for these two iconic species.
There were more large-scale ivory seizures in Africa and in destination markets last year than since records began more than 20 years ago. In South Africa alone, 448 rhinos were poached in 2011, up from just 13 four years before.
“These statistics, they are just shocking. Truly few of us had any idea,” said the Rev. Denis Kumbo, a Presbyterian pastor from Buea in western Cameroon.