The links between poaching and organised crime, such as drug cartels, human trafficking and money laundering, are well established.

Although the value of the international trade in illegal wildlife remains uncertain, it is estimated to be worth upward of US$19 billion per year and is the fourth largest transnational crime in the world, after illegal narcotics, human trafficking and armaments.    Source: Transnational Crime In The Developing World, 2011

The illegal trade in rhino horn and ivory is extremely lucrative.  The price of ivory in China tripled between 2010 and 2014; and one kilogram can now fetch as much as £4555 (€6210 or US$7000).  The value of rhino horn is even more alarming; it currently sells for around £45,000 (€60,000 or US$69,100) per kilo, rivaling the price of gold, diamonds and narcotics. Yet the penalties for trading in rhino horn and ivory are barely a fraction of those met by convicted drug dealers…  The huge profits measured against the low-risk of getting caught and the diminutive penalties drive poaching ever forward.

“…international crime gangs have overwhelmed South African conservation efforts”

Dr Carlos Drews, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme

“Today’s poaching gangs are sophisticated, global and vicious. They are invading our countries, not only slaughtering our wildlife but also killing rangers, and terrorizing communities”

Basile Yapo, WWF-Cameroon Country Director