The plight of the tigers, elephants, and rhinos is not to be taken lightly. These animals are the most endangered in the world, and they are slipping out of existence at an unprecedented rate because of the illegal wildlife trade.

The Western black rhino, for example, has already been poached into extinction for its horn. It is estimated that the African elephant population will be extinct due to the ivory trade within the next 20 years. And there are only around 3,000 tigers left in the wild as the rest of their population has been killed for their parts or sold into captivity.

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Tragically, these animals are not the only ones faced with this impending fate. Scientists estimate that current rates of species extinction are 1,000 times faster than normal, leading them to believe we’re in the midst of the world’s sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. Sadly, human actions are largely to blame for their loss.

While habitat loss and climate change play a role in species extinction, the illegal wildlife trade is arguably the largest driving factor in species loss. We are all familiar with how this trade impacts the elephant, tiger and rhino, but there are many other animals who are also losing their lives that don’t get the attention they deserve. As we know, every animal, big or small, plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of their ecosystem.

Because human actions have driven these animals to the brink of extinction, it is our responsibility to stand up in defense of these lesser known species. Together we can help protect them from the illegal wildlife trade and hopefully save them from following the path of the Western Black Rhino.

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1. The Pangolin

In the past 10 years, nearly one million pangolins have been traded illegally. Labeled as the world’ most trafficked animal, the pangolin is considered a good luck charm and believed to have medicinal value. The pangolin is also considered a delicacy and is sold in high-end restaurants to customers who are willing to pay the price.

You can help save the pangolin by supporting TRAFFIC, an awesome organization that’s working to combat the illegal wildlife trade. Help spread the word for the pangolin by sharing this graphic from United for Wildlife.

lesser known wildlife trade speciesWikimedia

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2. The Slow Loris

This adorable primate is a major target for the exotic pet trade. Back in 2009, a video of a slow loris went viral on YouTube and directly following, poaching and trafficking of these creatures increased. There is no denying that anyone looking for a precious, unusual pet would want a slow loris, but that doesn’t mean that they should EVER be kept as pets.

The slow loris is actually known as the world’s only venomous primate, making them rather dangerous to handle. As a result, poachers extract loris’ teeth using pliers prior to selling them on the black market. To make matters worse, the slow loris parts are also used in a number of Traditional Chinese Medicine folk remedies.

Luckily, there are many sanctuaries working to protect this species. International Animal Rescue, for example, runs a slow loris rescue and rehabilitation program. To learn how you can support their work protecting the slow loris, click here.

lesser known species of the wildlife tradeWikimedia

 

3. Tortoises  and Freshwater Turtles

These reptiles have survived on earth for 220 million years with little disturbance. Today, nearly half of all tortoises and freshwater turtles are threatened with extinction due to the illegal wildlife trade.

In the past six years, over 19,000 tortoises and freshwater turtles were seized from wildlife traffickers in Thailand. On a global scale, over 23,800 freshwater turtles are traded on the black market a DAY.

Some cultures buy turtles and tortoises for their meat while others use turtle parts for Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tortoise shell (actually made from Hawksbill turtles) is often used to make high-end accessories. Smaller species of turtle are sold on the black market as pets.

There are many things you can do to protect turtles here in the U.S. First, never purchase a turtle as a pet as these are often the result of the wildlife trade. And second, avoid all turtle shell accessories. When the buying stops, so can the killing!

lesser known species of the illegal wildlife trade

Anna Miticus

4. Owls

The illegal trade in owls runs rampant in India. A report from TRAFFIC found that owls are used for “black magic” rituals, trained for street performances and killed for their meat and taxidermy. Owls with larger feathers are the most common target of poachers as they are thought to possess “more magic” than the smaller birds and are more desired. In 1972 the Wildlife Protection Act passed in India, but demand for the owl is relentless.

You can help to slow the decimation of wild owl populations by supporting TRAFFIC’s work to combat poachers.

lesser known species of the wildlife trade

 

How We Can Stop Extinction – Before it’s Too Late

The illegal wildlife trade is a multi-billion dollar business that will continue to thrive so long as the demand for the animals and animal parts persists. The claims that these animals harness magical powers or medicinal benefits are false and misleading and the use of these animals for food or as pets is extremely cruel.

As Green Monsters, it is up to us to dissuade others from buying into this inhumane operation and ensure that no more species go extinct on our behalf!

Lead image source: Wikimedia Commons