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Combating the illegal wildlife trade

The illegal wildlife trade: What’s the issue?

The illegal wildlife trade is one of the biggest threats to conservation. This market, estimated to be a multibillion dollar industry, focuses on the trafficking of plants/live animals or products made from plants or animals. Often, these animals and products are used for the exotic pet trade, traditional medicines, or as status symbols. This market is decimating the population of many species. Over the past 100 years, thousands of elephants have been poached for their ivory tusks; rhinos have died for use of their horns; sea turtles have been captured for their shells; and snakes, birds and exotic fish have been taken for private pet ownership.

Illegal wildlife trafficking also creates issues for local communities. One consequence is the loss of wildlife tourism income for the economy. Many people, annually, journey across the globe to see animals in their natural habitats; decreased numbers in wild species could lead to less recreational travel. This trade can also lead to increased recruitment for regimes committed to poaching and violence at the hands of poachers. Unfortunately, there are incentives for people to join this illegal market as this can provide necessary revenue to families and communities that are in need of resources; this cannot and should not be overlooked. This is why it is critical for a conglomerate of institutions with varying focuses (such as governmental sectors, conservation organizations, and local grassroots businesses) to pull resources and work to tackle this issue. And the good news is, we are seeing this happen! There are many people and organizations around the world working diligently to bring attention to wildlife trafficking and offset threats of species extinction.

What is Zoo Atlanta doing?

Zoo Atlanta supports conservation efforts or partners all over the world, like Conservation South Luangwa. Located in Zambia, Conservation South Luangwa is a nonprofit organization working to identify and prevent illegal wildlife trade of African elephants and other neighboring species. Zoo Atlanta is committed to this partnership by providing resources, both financial and professional, and empowering people to take conservation action.

To learn more about this partnership and Conservation South Luangwa, follow these links: or

How can YOU help?

Be an informed consumer!

  • Be a conscientious traveler. When traveling abroad, be careful when buying products that resemble animal parts. When in doubt, choose not to make that purchase.
  • Support conservation and community-based organizations. It is critical to support institutions that are not only helping to save wild plants and animals, but also organizations that work to improve the lives of people and communities.  In order to disincentivize the market, people must have access to resources that afford them a good quality of life.
  • Speak up!
    • Respectfully reach out to organizations or social media accounts that allow the showcasing or posting of the exotic pet trade or trade of wildlife products.
    • Use the power of the ballot to vote for officials who support conservation efforts.

With your help, we can help create an equitable environment for all inhabitants of Earth!

Yetta Robinson
Community & Camp Programs Supervisor

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl