Poaching Facts
Poaching Facts

60 Tragic Poaching Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published August 16, 2017Updated September 7, 2019
  • The difference between poaching and hunting is the law. In other words, poaching is hunting without legal permission from whoever controls the land.[18]
  • Legal hunters kill tens of millions of animals per year. For each of those animals, another animal is illegally killed.[10]
  • The word “poach” is from the Middle English word pocchen, which literally means “bagged, enclosed in a bag.”[12]
  • Big-horned sheep antlers can cost $20,000 on the black market.[2]
  • Wildlife officials are noticing a recent increase in poaching infant gorillas. Baby gorillas are sold for up to $40,000 each.[3]
  • Since 1960, the black rhino population has decreased by 97.6% due to poaching.[3]
  • Conservationists estimate that between 30,000 and 38,000 elephants are poached annually for their ivory.[14]
  • Interesting Bear Farming Facts
    Despite protests, bear farming is still practiced in several countries
  • In China, nearly 10,000 bears are kept in farms where they are regularly drained of bile (while alive) through devices implanted in the animals.[2]
  • According to The Humane Society of the United States, a bear’s gallbladder can fetch more than $3,000 in Asia. Their gallbladders and bile are used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of diseases, such as fever, liver disease, convulsions, diabetes, and heart disease.[2]
  • Poached sharks, manta rays, and sea cucumbers are coveted by Asian consumers. Sharks are used to make shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy.[9]
  • Tigers are being poached to extinction. Their claws, teeth, and whiskers are believed to provide good luck and protective powers. Their skins and bones are valued as status symbols.[16]
  • Excessive habitat loss and fragmentation has forced tigers to live in small, isolated pockets, making them more exposed to poachers. The world’s forests are lost at a rate of as many as 36 football fields a minute.[10]
  • Poachers and criminal networks are drawn to tigers because parts from a single tiger can bring them as much as $50,000 on the black market.[5]
  • Elephants are poached for their ivory, which is carved into jewelry, utensils, religious figurines, and trinkets. Approximately 70% of illegal ivory ends up in China, where it is sold on the street for up to $1,000 a pound.[3]
  • Poachers often prefer using poisoned arrows because there is not a telltale gunshot sound. A well-placed arrow can kill in 20 minutes; however, a misplaced arrow can leave the animal dying a lingering death from infection for up to a month.[12]
  • The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.

    - Henry David Thoreau

  • Most poaching is done by organized crime syndicates who use high-powered technology and weaponry to hunt and kill animals without being detected.[3]
  • At the current poaching rates, elephants, rhinos, and other iconic African wildlife will be gone within our lifetime.[3]
  • During 2014, 1,215 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa. That is one rhino killed every 8 hours.[13]
  • American dentist Walter Palmer paid about $50,000 for the chance kill Cecil, a popular lion at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. The now infamous dentist claims that he was not poaching and insists that everything about his trip was “legal and properly handled.”[15]
  • Globalization and economic growth has made it easier to establish poaching trading routes.[12]
  • The Born Free Foundation estimates that 30%–50% of Africa’s lion population has been illegally killed over the last 20 years. Just 32,000 of these animals remain in the wild.[15]
  • In 2014, one of Kenya’s most beloved elephants, Satao, was shot with a poisoned arrow. The poachers waited for him to painfully die and then they cut off his face to harvest his ivory.[8]
  • An elephant’s tusks are teeth (ivory is highly compressed dentine; mature tusks have no enamel). To remove a tusk requires removing a very large chunk out of an elephant’s face and skull.[12]
  • Interesting Elephant Tusk Fact
    Elephant tusks are modified incisors in the upper jaw

  • The word “rhinoceros” is Greek for “nose horn.”[12]
  • The size of elephant tusks on the black market are getting smaller as elephants are being poached at younger ages.[12]
  • Kenya reports that 90% of ivory smugglers caught in the country are Chinese citizens.[12]
  • In the 1900s, there were about 12 million elephants south of the Sahara. Today, there are about 400,000.[8]
  • One poacher noted that he delights in the death rituals of elephants. When one elephant dies, other elephants will cluster around the individual elephant and touch the carcass with their trunks. The poacher notes that when this happens, he waits for the mourners so he can “kill another one and kill another one.”[12]
  • Investigators note that there is evidence that tusks, which reach deep into an elephant’s skull, have been cut out before the elephant was even dead.[12]
  • Poachers will often leave poison on the carcass of the prey to kill the vultures that might fly above and alert rangers.[12]
  • Poachers will sometimes poison elephants with laced pumpkins or watermelons. They may also poison them with arrows or nails on a board that is laid out in the brush.[1]
  • Interesting Poaching Fact
    The greatest threat to rhinos is poaching
  • The rhino horn is poached because it is believed that it can cure hangovers, impotence, fever, and cancer. It has been proven to cure none of these.[12]
  • Violent conflicts and ivory poaching are interconnected. Heavily armed militias and crime networks use ivory funds to finance terrorism and wars.[12]
  • Ecologists call elephants a ‘keystone” species and a “giant force of nature whose fortunes affect everything around them—for good or ill.” Approximately 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers, leaving elephant populations in a continuing steep decline.[12]
  • In 2011, there were over 23 tons of illegal ivory confiscated, which is equivalent to at least 2,500 elephants.[12]
  • The Obama administration created a “near complete ban” on the commercial sale of African elephant ivory in the U.S. The president also had 6 tons of ivory destroyed in 2013, announcing that destroying “blood ivory” symbolically shows the U.S. will not tolerate poaching.[17]
  • Over 100,000 African elephants were illegally poached from 2010 to 2012. The huge loss can deplete genetic diversity to the point where it is impossible to maintain a healthy and robust population.[12]
  • In the United States and Philippines, ivory buyers are more likely to be concerned about elephants but believe that governments will ensure the elephants don’t become extinct. In contrast, the Vietnamese are more likely to believe the elephant population is declining so fast that they had better buy as much ivory as possible.[15]
  • Some online businesses, such as eBay have banned ivory from their offerings and the television series Antiques Roadshow no longer accepts ivory tusks for appraisal.[6]
  • A rhino’s “horn” is not a true horn, with a bony supporting core like the horns of cattle or antelopes. It is, rather, an outgrowth of the skin, like human hair or fingernails.[10]
  • Fewer than 900 African mountain gorillas are still alive, due to poaching.[3]
  • Tragic Poaching Facts
    Baby gorillas are often poached to give as extravagant gifts

  • Poachers actually represent the bottom of a very long supply chain. The real powers controlling the real money stretches across borders and continents.[10]
  • An International Fund for Animal Welfare poll found that 70% of Chinese surveyed believe that an elephant’s tusk would grow back, a lie that traffickers perpetuate. They also believe that a tusk naturally falls out. However, there is no practical way to gather ivory from wild elephants and leave them alive.[1]
  • Simply cutting off an elephant’s tusk would cause a massive infection and an eventual, extraordinarily painful death. It would be similar to a human getting a root canal without the dentist ever capping off the work.[3]
  • Poaching elephants is illegal in every country in Africa.[12]
  • It is estimated that today at least 60% of China’s billion-plus inhabitants use poached animals for medicine, including tiger bone, rhino horn, and other animal parts.[12]
  • A 2013 estimate valued illegal poaching in Africa as being worth $17 billion a year and growing.[12]
  • One elephant is illegally killed every 15 minutes. At the current rate, they will be extinct in 20 years.[12]
  • China is the world’s largest consumer of ivory. While China has agreed to phase out its ivory industry, Chinese criminal gangs still using poaching to generate revenue.[11]
  • Interesting Tusk Fact
    China is the world's largest importer of tusk

  • One of the biggest markets for endangered tiger parts is Japan. While Japan bans trade in endangered species, it does not cover products that are not readily recognizable, such as wine, pills, and powders.[10]
  • Hong Kong is the main importer of Chinese tiger parts, accounting for nearly half of its annual business.[12]
  • The price of tiger bone has skyrocketed. It is estimated to be $140–$370 per kilogram, depending on the size of the bone.[10]
  • In Taiwan, a bowl of tiger penis soup, which is believed to boost virility, can cost $320. A pair of tiger eyes, which are believed to fight epilepsy and malaria, goes for $170. In Seoul, powdered tiger humorous bone—which is believed to treat ulcers, rheumatism, and typhoid—can cost $1,450 per pound.[10]
  • Poachers not only harvest animals, they also illegally harvest plant species. In the wild, plants often grow in isolated patches that are easily wiped out by only a few collectors.h[7]
  • Because China has nearly eradicated it own tiger population, it is looking for new supplies in Bangladesh and Nepal.[10]
  • The most expensive items in the world are gold, platinum, and rhino horn—with rhino horn topping the list. Rhino horn can sell for nearly $30,000 a pound. Gold, by comparison, is worth about $22,000 a pound.[12]
  • Interesting Tiger Fact
    Wild tiger populations have plummeted over 95% in the last century
  • One hundred years ago, there were 100,000 tigers in the wild. Now, there are as few as 3,200. Additionally, only 7% of historical tiger habitat still contains tigers. Conservations estimate that tigers will be extinct in just a few decades if illegal hunting continues.[10]
  • Poachers often place steel traps where tigers are found. Once the tiger exhausts itself trying to escape, a simple blow from a heavy stick is enough to kill the animal.[10]
  • In addition to steel traps, poachers also poison the carcasses of a tiger’s prey to kill them. Poachers may also poison shallow pools or use firearms and electrocution to kill tigers.[10]
  • One way conservationists are trying to stop rhino poaching is to inject a rhino horn with an indelible dye, the same dye that is used to thwart bank robbers and tag thieves.[4]

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