[ Project Watch ]

Tracking the Black Market in Endangered Species

Arowana Fish

An Arowana fish can sell for $20,000 on the black market. Photograph by User:Qwertzy2 [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Havocscope is an independent data and information provider of black market activities around the world. The Havocscope website presents data on all sorts of black market activity, from money laundering and tax evasion to illegal organ trading and environmental crimes, including wildlife trafficking. The information that appears on the site is collected daily from newspapers articles, academic journals, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations from all over the world.

According to an article from the Guardian cited on the Havocscope website, wildlife trafficking is a $19 billion business, with up to 350 million specimens bought and sold on the black market every year. Havocsope has collected and analyzed data on the prices of animals that are being trafficked on the black market.

Here’s a partial price list (see the full list on Havocscope).

(Prices are in U.S. dollars)

  • Abalone: $52 per kilogram
  • Arowana Fish: $20,000
  • Baby Elephant in Thailand: $7,000
  • Baby Tiger in Iran: $3,200
  • Bear Bile: $200,000 per pound
  • Bear Paws: $50 for set of 4
  • Black Cockatoo: $31,000 in Australia
  • Butterfly (Queen Alexandra): $8,195
  • Clouded Leopard: $5,700 in China
  • Elephant: $28,200
  • Elephant Tusk: $1,800 in Vietnam
  • Full Dead Bear: $4,500 in Taiwan
  • Gorillas: $40,000
  • Iguanas: $10,600
  • Ivory: $1,800 per kilo
  • Komodo Dragon: $30,000
  • Orangutan: $45,000
  • Pangolin: $5 in Indonesia, $15 in Malaysia, $100 in China
  • Ploughshare Tortoise: $4,000
  • Polar Bear Skin:$7,760 to $9,930
  • Rhino Horn Dagger: $14,000
  • Rhino Horns: $97,000 per kilogram
  • Rhino Horns (Crushed for medicine powder): $10 in Vietnam
  • Shark Fins: $400 per pound
  • Snake Venom: $215,175 per liter
  • Snow Leopard Pelt: $1,000 in Afghanistan
  • Tiger (Dead): $5,000
  • Tiger (Live): $50,000
  • Tiger Bone Wine: $88
  • Tiger Penis: $1,300
  • Tiger Remains: $70,000 in China
  • Tiger Skin: $35,000
  • Tortoises: $10,000 in Madagascar

As these animals become more scarce in the wild, prices and profits on the black market are bound to increase, further fueling trade. The good news is that last week the prime minister of Thailand pledged to end that country’s ivory trade. According to the New York Times, Thailand is believed to be second-biggest market for illegally obtained elephant tusks. International pressure is building on China, the biggest market for illicit ivory. When faced with the choice between African elephants and decorative carvings, too many people in China are opting for the latter.