Widespread poverty, coupled with a lucrative overseas market for exotic animal products, has resulted in massive poaching of African and Southeast Asian wildlife. The resulting black market is worth $7.8 billion to $10 billion a year, UNODC estimates.
Trafficking centers on rhino horns, elephant ivory and tiger parts, and to a lesser extent, birds of prey. Central Africa is the main source of ivory. Last year, poachers killed about 450 elephants in just one incident in Bouba Ndjida National Park, in Cameroon.
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Southern Africa is targeted for rhinoceroses, while Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are particularly affected by the tiger trade. As a result of poaching, only 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, down from an estimated 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century.
Europol describes the illegal wildlife trade as a "niche market attracting highly specialized OCGs" (organized crime groups).
"The groups involved … are innovative in obtaining their products. For instance, OCGs steal rhino horn in exhibition halls, museums, during sightseeing tours in castles or during auction sales. … A perception of low risk and high profitability associated with this crime area is likely to continue to attract interest from OCGs," Europol said in a 2013 report.