International trade in endangered species

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Smuggling protected wildlife
Wildlife traffic
Trade in exotic species
Illegal importation of species
Unethical sale of species

Export of live wild animals for zoos, private collections, medical research and as pets, seriously depletes populations of wildlife – species, many of which are rare or in danger of extinction (indeed the likelihood of sophisticated trafficking increases with the rarity, driving rare species to the edge of extinction. The capture of animals may, for reasons of economic effectiveness, lead to the use of cruel methods and the death of the captured animals in transit.


There are no records of total numbers of wild animals imported into any of the major developed importing countries. It is known that India exports several million birds each year; and that the developed countries import over 100,000 monkeys annually for scientific research, including the production and testing of vaccines. It has been estimated that 80% of wild animals and birds die during capture or in transit. Fewer than 2% of wild-caught birds survive a year in captivity.

In the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Viet Nam, wildlife meat is considered a delicacy and a wide range of species are hunted for this purpose. Poaching and the illegal harvesting and trade of medicinal plants and animals has increased both in Mongolia and the Republic of Korea from where they are exported to the lucrative black markets of Pacific neighbours. In Pakistan, falcons are smuggled to the Middle East, lizards and snakes are killed for their skins, and crocodile hunting is still a popular sport and recreational activity.

Trade is a factor in the threatened assessment for 52 species of Asian freshwater turtles and tortoises. In 1999, an expert group considered 63 of the 84 species evaluated "threatened" following the IUCN Red List criteria.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST