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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Guns, Drugs & Turtles

The underground trade in endangered wildlife is a massive international business.

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Saturday, March 30, 2013/Categories: sustainability, environment

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network , has estimated that the movement and sale of wildlife and plants is the second largest in illicit commerce worldwide. It includes live pets, trophy hunting, fashion accessories, cultural artifacts, ingredients in traditional medicines in Asia, and "bushmeat" for human consumption. According to Wikipedia: "the illicit wildlife trade was estimated in 2008 in excess of $20 billion ranking it among the most lucrative illicit economies in the world, behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking."

The latest entry in this sad saga was the discovery of critically endangered turtles from Madagascar being smuggled into Thailand. Airport inspectors found more than 50 Ploughshare tortoises in suitcases being carried by two passengers. The haul of turtles could represent nearly 15% of the remaining population of the tortoises existing in the wild.


Star Tortoises Smuggled from So. Asia  (credit: TRAFFIC)

The illicit wildlife trade increases yearly, particularly from demand in China and elsewhere in Asia. It will likely continue until the species become extinct. Until then, turtle numbers will join the sad statistics of guns and drugs kept by trade monitors.

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