World Environment Day, the species most threatened by the illegal wildlife trade

On World Environment Day, find out which species’ very survival is threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.

Forcibly taken from their homes and families, forced to endure brutal journeys, or cut into pieces. This is what millions of wild animals face every year due to the illegal wildlife trade. Wildlife trafficking is one of the main causes of biodiversity loss in the world and is the fourth most profitable racketeering market after drug, counterfeiting and human trafficking. Animals are killed for their parts in order to make medicines, artefacts or clothes. They can also be reduced to slavery to become “pets”.


Pangolins are the mammals most commonly sold on the international market. According to a report by the Chinese wildlife protection agency, written in collaboration with a team of UK researchers, more than 10,000 pangolins are smuggled into China from Southeast Asia every year. The illegal trade in pangolins is just the latest example of China’s increasing demand for illegal wildlife. These animal’s scales are used in Chinese traditional medicine and its meat is eaten in restaurants.

Pangolins are divided into eight different species and are threatened with extinction due to the illegal wildlife trade


The victims of poaching par excellence, these huge herbivores are killed for their precious tusks. Between 2010 and 2012, more than 100,000 elephants were killed. Over the past few years, more effective measures have hurt poaching. However, elephants’ birth rates are also decreasing, while the number of hunted individuals remains higher than births — threatening the very survival of African elephants.

Mamma elefante con due piccoli
More than 35,000 elephants are killed for their ivory every year


Rhinos are hunted for their horns, which are sold at exorbitant prices on the black market (90,000 dollars per kilo). These ancient creatures, descending from megafauna that roamed the planet thousands of years ago, are threatened due to ignorance. Horns, used Chinese traditional medicine, are made of keratin and have no healing properties. In 1970 Africa was home to over 70,000 rhinos, but today only 20,000 white rhinos and 5,000 black rhinos survive in the wild.

Rinoceronti africani
According to researchers, rhinos could become extinct in the wild in 28 years

Sea turtles

Sea turtles have been hunted for hundreds of years for their shells, used to create jewels and objects, as well as for their meat, used for food and therapeutic purposes. Currently, all seven existing species of sea turtle are threatened with extinction. Among the main threats is the illegal trade in their eggs.

Tartaruga marina in spiaggia
Sea turtles are threatened by the illegal wildlife trade, pollution and fishing


Humans are pitiless, they’re not able to feel empathy even with those creature most similar to them. Numerous species of primates are threatened by the illegal wildlife trade. Among them is the slow loris, small nocturnal primate native to Southeast Asia. Despite the fact that it is protected by CITES, which governs the international trade in protected species, demand in slow loris is relentlessly increasing. Gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans are also considered precious on the black market.

Esemplare di lori lento in natura
The slow loris is the only poisonous primate in the world

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