Hunting and Wildlife Trade

Pet Trade Photo
Endangered animals, like this tamarin, are taken from their forest homes and kept as pets or sold as bush meat in Ecuador.
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Wildlife trade is a critical global challenge—feeding an international appetite for exotic goods including ivory, pelts, traditional medicines, and wild meats. As the human footprint expands, so does the trade: The more access we gain into wild places, the more we exploit their resources. As WCS works to stem the unsustainable harvest of wild animals, our challenge is twofold. We must balance the subsistence and economic needs of local people with the control of a vast threat, which has driven many species to the brink of extinction, endangered ecosystems, and created new dangers to human health, spreading monkey pox, SARS, avian flu, and other deadly diseases.

Stemming the global wildlife trade also requires education and outreach on the domestic level. Through our North America Program, WCS is working with the U.S. military to develop and implement an outreach program for personnel ready to be deployed or already stationed overseas. Military personnel and affiliates posted overseas have significant buying power that influences local markets in the communities and regions where they are based, including the ability to drive the demand for wildlife products. These can include products derived from endangered species. Trade in wildlife products poses a major threat to wildlife populations.

WCS Projects

Ecoguards of Central Africa

As the eyes and ears for conservationists, ecoguards work not only to protect national parks and surrounding lands, but also to help evaluate the success of international conservation efforts.

Indonesia’s Wildlife Crimes Unit

WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit helps intercept the trade in illegal tiger parts on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The island’s populations of tigers and other endangered species are under siege by poachers who sell the animals into complex trade chains. These chains often terminate in illegal markets in China and other parts of East Asia.

Keeping Bushmeat off the Rails in Cameroon

To help Cameroon stem the dangerous trade in bushmeat from forests to lucrative urban markets, WCS partners with the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the CAMRAIL national train network—in the past, a common means of transporting large volumes of wildlife.

The Turtle Trade

Despite having survived since the late Triassic Era, many turtle species will go extinct in the next decade unless drastic conservation measures are taken. WCS is working to guard their future by addressing one of their primary threats: persecution by wildlife traders and consumers for food, the pet trade, and traditional medicine.

Wildlife Trade and the Military

As part of our efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade, WCS is working with the U.S. military to develop and implement an outreach program to discourage the purchase of wildlife souvenirs by personnel stationed overseas.

Logging Concession in Congo

WCS works with the CIB logging company to reduce the pressures on gorillas, elephants, and other endangered wildlife in four timber concessions and to control the trade in bushmeat. This collaborative project is called PROGEPP: the Project for Ecosystem Management in the Nouabalé-Ndoki Periphery Area.

From the Newsroom

Banning Ivory Sales in AmericaFebruary 18, 2014

As the second-largest market for ivory in the world, the United States recently announced that it will ban the trade within its borders through a series of new rules. The editorial board of the New York Times explores the implications.

WCS Statement: London Declaration on Illegal Wildlife TradeFebruary 13, 2014

The following statement was released today by Dr. John G. Robinson, WCS Chief Conservationist and Executive Vice President of Conservation and Science.

More Devastating News for Forest ElephantsFebruary 12, 2014

The authors of a landmark 2013 study, coordinated by WCS, show that forest elephant poaching continues apace, with 65 percent of the animals lost between 2002 and 2013. The information was released at the United for Wildlife International Wildlife Trafficking Symposium at the Zoological Society of London.

The Bloody Ivory BusinessFebruary 8, 2014

Following recent ivory crushes by the governments of France, China, and the U.S., the editorial board of the New York Times evaluates an initiative by New York State legislators to prohibit all ivory sales in the state, including those that are now technically legal.

This Week in London: Uniting to End the Scourge of Illegal Wildlife TraffickingFebruary 7, 2014

In her 25 years of work on the issue of international wildlife trade, Dr. Sue Lieberman, WCS Executive Director for Conservation Policy, has never witnessed a level of poaching worse than it is today. The global initiative United for Wildlife will meet in London this week to identify solutions to the poaching crisis.


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