Wild animals are being poached on a massive scale, with millions of individual animals of thousands of species worldwide killed or captured from their native habitats. Poaching poses a growing threat to elephants, rhinos, and other charismatic animals, as well as to smaller and more obscure creatures, like certain lizards and monkeys.
Poachers sometimes kill or capture animals to sell them locally or for the global trade in wildlife. Wildlife trading is a major black market that has increased alongside rising wealth in Asia — a major consumer of wildlife — and the advent of e-commerce and social media websites.
Some animals, such as birds, reptiles, and primates, are captured live so that they can be kept or sold as exotic pets. Slaughtered animals, on the other hand, have commercial value as food, jewellery, decor, or traditional medicine.
The ivory tusks of African elephants, for example, are carved into trinkets or display pieces. The scales of pangolins, small animals that eat ants, are ground into powder and consumed for their purported healing powers. The meat of apes, snakes, and other bush animals is considered a delicacy in parts of Africa.
In addition to killing for direct profit, poachers target animals to prevent them from destroying crops or attacking livestock. This happens to lions and elephants in Africa, as well as to wolves, coyotes, and other predators in North America and leopards and tigers in India.