We present you with the essential poaching statistics, facts, and frequently asked questions to better understand this global issue.
We hope they’ll encourage you to do whatever is in your power to stop poachers and help save the many endangered species out there.
Before we begin, let’s take a look at some of the essential stats on animal poaching.
What Are the 10 Most Important Poaching Facts
- Nearly two rangers a week are killed protecting the wildlife.
- Illegal wildlife trafficking is a business worth $5–$23 billion a year.
- 100 million sharks are killed every year throughout the world.
- In Africa, poachers kill thousands of endangered animals every day.
- Rhinos are poached at a rate of one per 12 hours.
- Rhino poaching is likely to increase by 356% by 2030.
- Every year, 35,000 elephants in Botswana are slaughtered.
- On average, poachers kill 96 African elephants every day.
- Only 13 countries in the world have populations of wild tigers.
- Over 30,000 green sea turtles are poached every year in Baja, California.
Unfortunately, animal poaching stats reveal that rare animals are lucrative on the black market. This has brought upon the world the illegal practice of poaching.
In the last few decades, poachers have managed to bring untold perils to animals around the globe.
We hope our article will shine some much-needed light on the importance of fighting poaching.
General Animal Poaching Statistics
Did you know that poaching is pushing many species to extinction? And even though poachers are killing animals, very often innocent people get harmed, as well.
1. Nearly two rangers a week are killed protecting the wildlife.
It’s impossible to give the exact numbers as the data isn’t collected or kept in all countries worldwide. But we do have estimates. Over ten years, more than 1,000 rangers are killed.
About half of them are murdered by poachers, while the other half die in workplace accidents. Bear in mind that the facts about poaching casualties are just estimates, and the real number is most likely much higher.
2. Only six countries collect and keep detailed data on poaching.
Not all countries in the world have a poaching problem. However, most of Africa and a large part of Asia do. And yet, only five African countries and one Asian country keep records. They include:
- South Africa
- Botswana, and
3. Around 30,000 species are driven to extinction every year, poaching animals facts show.
(Center for Biological Diversity)
That’s approximately three species per hour!
Naturally, species go extinct all the time — it’s how life works, but the rate has never been so dramatic. And even though these numbers aren’t poaching stats per se, poachers play a vital role in the mass extinction.
Global climate changes and the destruction of animals’ natural habitats are the most significant issues here. But poachers don’t help, either. They’re especially devastating to the endangered species in Africa and Southeast Asia.
4. Illegal wildlife trafficking is a business worth $5–$23 billion a year.
According to poaching facts and statistics, illegal wildlife trafficking, fishing, and logging are the second most lucrative crime globally, with $73–$216 estimated yearly value.
The first one is drugs, with $426–$652 billion estimated yearly value. Human trafficking is third, with an estimated $150 billion.
5. 160 animal species were illegally taken away from Brazil between 2012 and 2019.
This is millions of animals, and experts believe that a lot more animals get snatched. Also, consider these animal poaching facts in the table below.
Also, less than 1% were unidentified amphibians and unidentified butterflies.
However, the data doesn’t account for the animals that die out due to habitat destruction. This is the case in many Amazon habitats cut down and ruined by private companies every year.
6. 100 million sharks are killed every year throughout the world.
Several species of sharks now face extinction because of this. According to the poaching statistics, a large part of this number is due to illegal fishing.
The main reason for the extinction of sharks is shark fin soup. This dish is very popular in China and Vietnam, so many fishermen resort to illegal fishing.
7. In Africa, poachers kill thousands of endangered animals every day.
(African Wildlife Foundation)
Poaching in Africa statistics reveal that many countries have increased their efforts to stop it. However, the poachers are still at large.
Poaching is such a massive business that some criminals even go as far as to assassinate people to cover their tracks.
8. Facts about poaching in Africa reveal that poaching threatens to destroy the world’s most iconic animals.
(African Wildlife Foundation)
This includes the black rhino, the African elephant, the mountain gorilla, the lion, and the imperial zebra.
Do you know what connects all of these animals? All of them call Africa their home, and all are either endangered or very close to extinction.
Data shows there are only 1,000 mountain gorillas and 2,000 zebras left.
What’s more, lion poaching facts reveal that 43% of the lion population has disappeared in the last 21 years.
While a staggering 97.6% of the black rhino population has vanished since 1960.
Poaching statistics in Africa also show that elephants might have it the worst, as around 35,000 are killed annually. Most of these species will likely go extinct within most of our lifetimes.
9. Poachers often use poisoned arrows to kill animals instead of rifles and other guns.
Poachers use them for their lack of sound in the hopes of avoiding authorities. On top of that, a well-placed arrow can kill an animal in several minutes. But a bad shot can leave them dying from an infection for a whole month.
Other terrifying hunting and poaching facts show the situation is even worse. Besides weapons, poachers often use high-powered technology and other forms of weaponry to remain undetected and efficient at their “task.”
Rhino Poaching Statistics
As you may know, rhinos are being poached mostly for the illegal trade in their horns. Certain cultures use these horns in medicine, while others buy them as a symbol of their wealth.
10. Rhinos are poached at a rate of one per 12 hours.
(Save the Rhino)
As you read on about rhino poaching, facts reveal that their population has significantly dropped worldwide.
This is a great success compared to 2015, when the average was 3 rhinos per 24 hours, as poaching in Africa facts reveal. We’re still a long way from an ideal situation.
11. Only around 29,000 rhinos are left in the entire world today.
(Save the Rhino)
The rhino is one of the most famous animals globally. Still, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that these are their population numbers for the entire globe.
The most numerous is the white rhino species, with around 18,000 of them alive. The most critically endangered rhino species are the Javan rhino (only 74 left) and the Sumatran rhino (less than 80 of them are alive today).
12. According to poaching statistics from 2020, rhino poaching decreased by over 50% in the first half of 2020 due to Covid-19.
In the first half of 2019, 316 rhinos were killed. However, due to the pandemic, the number fell to 166 in the first half of 2020. Statistics show that three-quarters of the killings occurred before lockdown.
As a matter of fact, there were no killings during April in the Intensive Protection Zone in Kruger. This was the first time in almost ten years.
13. Around 5,600 black rhinos are left in the world.
Black rhinos are native to Africa and are the smaller and less numerous cousins of the white rhinos. According to these black rhino poaching statistics, their numbers dwindled to 2,500 in 1995.
However, that number increased substantially in the next 20 years or so and now stands at around 5,600.
Despite that, the black rhino species is still classified as critically endangered. And poaching remains a massive obstacle to their continued recovery.
14. The number of poached rhinos in Africa reached an all-time high in 2015 when poachers killed 1,349 rhinos.
(Save the Rhino)
However, according to some recent poaching statistics, the rates have dropped.
In South Africa, 594 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2019. Luckily, the numbers are decreasing. There were 769 poached rhinos in 2018.
15. The poaching crisis was the worst in 2013 when it spread from South Africa to Kenya and then later to Zimbabwe and Namibia.
(Save the Rhino)
We can safely say that the crisis was terrible for South Africa’s rhino population from 2007 to 2014. During those years, rhino poaching grew by 9,000%.
But when it comes to poaching in Kenya, statistics aren’t so bleak. In 2015, the number of poached rhinos had steadily begun to drop in South Africa. It went below 1,000 in 2018 for the first time since 2012.
16. The white rhino population is the largest in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, with their numbers being around 9,000–12,000.
Unfortunately, according to these white rhino poaching facts, the KNP has lost more than 100 white rhinos since January 2020. So far, the authorities have arrested 25 suspected poachers, with 17 in the KNP.
17. There were several hundreds of thousands of rhinos across Africa and Asia at the beginning of the 20th century.
That was barely 120 years ago!
When we consider the small numbers rhino poaching statistics from 2020 have shown us, this stat becomes all the more depressing.
We can’t know the exact numbers as records weren’t kept on rhinos in that period of history. But it’s clear there were 10 to 40 times more rhinos than there are today.
Just let the numbers sink in, from hundreds of thousands some 120 years ago to less than 40,000 today.
Once, there were dozens of different species of rhino. And now, there are only five, two of which are on the verge of extinction.
18. The biggest rhino horns poaching hub is in Vietnam, where a single pound of it is sold for $15,000 to $30,000.
(African Wildlife Foundation)
These rhino poaching facts effectively show how lucrative this gruesome business is. The price also explains why rhino poaching has been on the rise for a long time.
But we’re still glad that the poaching rates have begun going down in several countries across the African continent. There’s still hope for the rhino population in Africa! But, the next stat paints a different picture.
19. Rhino poaching is likely to increase by 356% by 2030.
(African Wildlife Foundation)
Even though the rates have decreased in the last few years, experts’ estimates for the future are still bleak.
Not all agree with these statistics on poaching. But most believe the rates are unlikely to keep falling and that they will, instead, start rising soon. We can only hope that they are wrong!
By the way, one of the reasons why rhino horns are in high demand is due to the belief that they cure diseases. However, science has proven that consuming rhino horn is as beneficial as chewing on your fingernails!
Elephant Poaching Statistics
Similarly to rhinos, elephants are being poached for their ivory tusks. The tusks are used as ornaments, piano keys, jewelry, and other items beneficial only for humans’ entertainment and enjoyment.
20. Every year, 35,000 elephants in Botswana are slaughtered.
(African Wildlife Foundation)
Botswana is home to more than 130,000 elephants. It’s the last stronghold for Africa’s elephants. Sadly, poaching statistics for 2021 show that ivory demand is accelerating the poaching rates.
21. On average, poachers kill 96 African elephants every day.
(Wildlife Conservation Society)
As you are probably already aware, poachers usually kill elephants for their tusks. That’s because ivory is incredibly lucrative, especially today.
22. The average price of ivory on the black market has risen by 1,019%.
The 1,000% rise has occurred in only 30 years.
According to elephant poaching facts, the increase has occurred mostly because of the worldwide ban on ivory trading. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) issued the ban in 1989.
Unfortunately, that ban hasn’t stopped elephant poachers, who are now responsible for an 8% drop in the global population of elephants annually.
23. The African elephant poaching rates reached a peak in 2011 but have since slowly started to decline.
According to the poaching statistics for Africa, African elephants’ annual poaching rate peaked at 10% in 2011. Luckily, it has dropped since.
But the drop in the poaching rates isn’t good enough. With the current poaching rates, they still face extinction.
However, experts are optimistic. They believe that the rates will continue to drop, which will undoubtedly improve the elephants’ chances.
24. As many as 40% of the 50,000 elephants living in Asia today are held in captivity.
Sometimes poaching is not the biggest problem for wild animals — being held in captivity in such large numbers is, according to the animal poaching facts.
25. In 1989, there were only 16,000 elephants in Kenya, but the number has doubled since.
Africa used to be a home for more than a million elephants. Sadly, poaching has led to a dramatic decrease in their numbers, and only 16,000 elephants lived in Kenya in 1989.
Thankfully, not all facts about elephant poaching are bleak. Despite poaching still being a threat in Africa, the population of elephants in Kenya is still increasing. By the end of 2019, there were 34,800 elephants — more than double.
26. There were a few million elephants in Africa and around 100,000 elephants in Asia at the start of the 20th century.
(Global Giving, WWF, International Elephant Foundation)
And do you know what the estimates are for today? Only some 415,000 African elephants 30,000–50,000 Asian elephants are left, according to the latest estimates.
Tiger Poaching Statistics
Sophisticated international crime syndicates run the massive wildlife poaching business. Tiger bones are smuggled to China, where they’re used for tiger bone wine. But, they’re also poached for fur and other traditional medicine.
27. Only a century ago, around 100,000 tigers roamed the wild. Today, there are only 3,900 left, as poaching facts show.
(Irish Examiner, Change.org)
Naturally, it’s not all due to poaching. In large part, the destruction of their natural habitat is to blame. But poaching is still a massive issue for the continued existence of tigers.
That’s because a single tiger (or better said, its parts) can yield the poachers around $50,000 on the black market. And it’s not only the skin that’s sold.
Tiger bones are also highly popular in the Eastern markets as many people use them in medicine and healing tonics.
28. Close to 3,000 of the total 3,900 tigers live in India.
Despite such low numbers, tiger poaching facts show India has improved its tiger population’s security. And their numbers have seen a slight increase. There’s still hope for the world’s biggest cats!
29. Only 13 countries in the world have populations of wild tigers.
In 2010, WWF and 13 countries signed an initiative (TX2) to double the number of tigers globally by 2022. The countries included:
The progress is slow, but the tigers have made an incredible comeback in Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Russia. Unfortunately, tiger poachers are active in most of these countries.
30. Poachers killed 38 tigers in India in 2019.
(Wildlife Protection Society of India)
The latest illegal poaching facts from India paint an interesting picture. The number for 2019 is very similar to the ones the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) has been seeing for the last two decades.
The 1990s were much worse for tigers in India. Back then, around one hundred tigers were killed by poachers every year. For example, poachers killed about 121 tigers in 1995. Today, society doesn’t include tigers with an uncertain cause of death.
So, the real numbers are most likely much higher, which is why tigers are still an endangered species.
31. According to WWF, poaching is the most immediate threat to tigers in the wild.
Animal poaching facts and statistics reveal that poaching is the biggest threat to the wild tiger populations. This is because every part of the tiger is tradable and can be found in many illegal wildlife markets.
More than 7,000 tigers in East and Southeast Asia are not under this threat as they live in so-called tiger farms. Additionally, 5,000 tigers can be found in captivity in the US as well.
Gorilla Poaching Facts
Gorillas are poached for three main reasons: food, traditional medicine, and the Bushmeat trade. Current poaching rates have caused all gorilla species to become endangered.
32. All gorilla species are considered to be endangered or critically endangered, depending on the subspecies.
All gorilla species can be found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Central Africa. Moreover, all African countries with gorilla populations have laws to protect them. Unfortunately, a lot of them are not sufficiently enforced.
33. The most widespread gorilla species is the western lowland gorilla, with around 100,000 members.
According to WWF’s recent gorilla poaching statistics, the other three gorilla subspecies include:
- The Cross River gorilla — the world’s rarest great ape with a population of 250–300
- The mountain gorilla — with a population of 880
- The eastern lowland gorilla — the subspecies lost a lot of its population in the last few decades and has around 4,000 individuals left
34. People expected the mountain gorilla to go extinct by the end of the 20th century.
Thankfully, the most recent mountain gorilla poaching facts show that the species is still going strong despite the habitat loss and constant poaching threat.
Their numbers have also increased in the last few years. It’s estimated they number some 1,000 or more individuals. One of the things that might help them survive is that they live high up in the mountains, on elevations between 8,000 and 13,000 feet.
Poaching Statistics on Other Endangered Animal Species
Sadly, poaching isn’t only a problem in Africa and Asia. Almost all other parts of the world are poisoned with this illegal activity. What’s more, marine animals aren’t safe either.
35. Wildlife tourism is worth five times more than the poaching industry.
(Natural Habitat Adventures)
This interesting fact is critical to note as we feel everyone should be aware of how pointless poaching is compared to an industry that’s much better for everyone involved.
Since many don’t understand why poaching is bad and are driven by money, maybe this economic comparison will persuade them to stop poaching animals.
Poaching is worth around $23 billion. But that’s negligible compared to wildlife tourism, which brings around $120 yearly.
Unlike poaching, wildlife tourism creates jobs for local communities. And it also doesn’t harm the ecosystem or the animal and human populations in the area.
It would be far more beneficial for everyone if the entire poaching industry were to turn to tourism. But alas, we don’t live in a reasonable world. We live in a world where the great majority of the poaching statistics are devastating.
However, there is still hope that people can change their minds, and that’s all we need.
36. Thousands of people are arrested each year for poaching in the United States.
The UK is not the only country with poaching problems. As you can see, poaching statistics in the United States are serious, too.
What’s more, poaching in Africa and Asia is, in some part, connected to the US as a lot of animal trophies are imported to the states every year, despite the harsh punishment for poaching the smugglers are facing.
37. As of 2016, the giant panda is no longer considered an endangered species.
At least panda poaching facts are very positive! News like this is rare today.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of activists and organizations worldwide, the beautiful giant panda is now officially only a vulnerable species after being endangered for a very long time.
Their population is recovering, and now there are more than 1,800 giant pandas in China.
38. Even though commercial whaling is banned globally, more than 1,000 whales are hunted every year.
(Whale and Dolphin Conservation)
According to whale poaching statistics, the world banned commercial whaling in 1986.
However, Japan has restarted the practice after a while. Norway objects to it, and Iceland does it anyway under some reservations.
Hunting whales is very profitable for people in these countries. This is likely the reason why the governments there don’t want to ban or punish the practice.
Whale meat is used in many traditional dishes, and the oil is used in pharmaceuticals and some health supplements.
39. Over 30,000 green sea turtles are poached every year in Baja, California.
Moreover, every year, 100,000 are killed in the Indo-Australian archipelago.
Sea turtles have roamed the Earth’s oceans for more than 100 million years. But, according to the poaching statistics from 2020, they are now an endangered species.
However, their biggest threat is not poaching — it’s bycatch. Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles are accidentally caught in nets intended for other fish every year.
Some are set free, but most die as they need to reach the surface to breathe, and most of these nets remain underwater for a long time.
40. Poachers have been killing cheetahs for decades. That’s one of the main reasons there are only 10,000 cheetahs left in the world today.
(Big Cat Rescue)
According to cheetah poaching facts, there were more than 100,000 cheetahs in the world in 1900. But their numbers have plummeted to less than 25,000 in 1970.
Poaching is one of the biggest reasons for this. Especially when you consider that only in 1980, almost 7,000 cheetahs have reportedly been killed by poachers.
Most of the cheetahs left today are found in the wild, where their lifespan is less than six years, and they can live up to 15 years in captivity.
41. In 2014, a poisoned arrow shot by a poacher killed Kenya’s most adored elephant, known as Satao.
When it comes to poaching in Kenya, statistics show that the beloved animal was shot only for its tusks. The poachers waited for the animal to die in pain, and then they cut off most of its face to get the ivory.
The terrifying truth is that it’s necessary to cut a massive part of the elephant’s face to reach the tusk as they grow from the skull through the face. It’s almost impossible to gather the ivory from an elephant without killing it.
42. In Africa, ivory poaching and violent conflicts are deeply connected.
(Brookings, University of Birmingham)
Many aren’t aware, but poaching has a more significant effect on humanity than most of us know.
Poaching in Africa facts show that the worlds of poaching and armed conflicts are intertwined in Africa. Armed militias and crime networks often use poaching funds to finance terrorism and even wars.
43. Chinese traditional medicine (CTM) is an industry worth $60 billion a year.
Most animal poaching stats have something to do with Africa. But the Chinese are still the world’s largest consumers of “poached goods.” It mostly has to do with their tradition and beliefs that many animal parts can heal or improve people’s lives.
Naturally, the government of China banned poaching and has agreed to phase out the related industries. Unfortunately, this hasn’t helped the tigers in China, as their population is almost eradicated.
44. When it comes to the Amur leopard, poaching facts reveal that there are barely more than 84 of them left in the world.
The stunning Amur leopard lives in vast expanses of Russia and adjacent Chinese areas close to the Russian border. It differs from other leopards because of its gorgeous, pale fur.
Even though their numbers are meager and the species is critically endangered, their total population has increased by a few in the last decade or so.
45. Where is poaching most common?
Poaching is a global problem. Besides the destruction of natural habitat and climate change, it’s the next most significant threat to animals.
Plenty of countries across the world have significant poaching problems. Most of them are found in central and southern Africa and South and Southeast Asia.
However, most experts agree that Zimbabwe is the country with the biggest poaching problem out of all the countries in the world. The next country where most of the world’s poaching happens is Kenya.
As you can probably assume, most poaching in the world, about half of it, happens in Africa. That’s mostly the case because most of the animal poachers seek can be found there.
Furthermore, it’s also because many countries in Africa don’t have the resources to protect their wildlife from poachers.
46. How many animals die from poaching a year?
As we’ve already mentioned, too many countries around the world don’t keep poaching records. If not that, then many records are incorrect or unreliable.
With that in mind, it’s next to impossible to determine the exact number of poached animals per year.
However, some estimates tell us that, for every animal killed legally, one is killed illegally. It’s naturally a rough estimate, but it’s still the closest one we have to a specific number.
So, the current estimate is that poachers kill millions of animals every year. This is undoubtedly a devastating number, especially when you consider that as many are killed legally.
47. Do poachers kill baby elephants?
Yes, poachers kill baby elephants. We’ve already covered statistics on elephants, so you already know that the numbers are terrible.
However, most of these are from African countries. Africa holds most of the world’s elephant population. But there are still as many as 30,000 to 50,000 elephants in Asia, which is about a tenth of the elephants found in Africa.
We don’t have exact numbers for Asian elephants. Still, we know that poaching is a problem in Asia as it is in Africa. We already know the estimated number of African elephants so that we can get a rough estimate.
Between 30,000 and 40,000 elephants are likely poached every year in Africa and Asia combined.
48. Why is poaching bad?
From all that you’ve seen from these statistics, you can probably guess what the consequences of poaching are. It’s endangering the existence of several animal species, while specific species are close to extinction due to the illegal practice.
Additionally, local communities and the environment feel the adverse effects of poaching, too. It increases the spread of foodborne illnesses, and it causes a lack of natural resources as well.
When you consider all of that, it becomes even more crucial that countries stop poachers.
49. How has poaching changed in recent years?
In the distant past, people only killed animals for food, fur, and other things that ensured their survival. After a time, the nobility started hunting animals for sport.
However, it remained exclusive to them, as regular people rarely had the means or the time to kill animals for sport. What’s more, poaching was illegal even though people didn’t do it.
However, as rural poverty became prevalent globally in the 18th century, many people began to poach animals to get food and make a living.
That wasn’t a big problem until more and more poachers became greedy. As time passed and the human population increased, so did the problems of poaching. That’s why we have the problem we have today.
50. What is poaching?
The act of poaching is similar to hunting. The result of both is that a human being kills an animal.
On the one hand, hunting is entirely legal and sanctioned by the country in which it takes place. Many countries allow hunting, but most permit it under specific rules to enable animal species to continue to exist and thrive.
On the other hand, poaching is entirely illegal and not sanctioned by the country in which it occurs. It brings hefty fines in most countries, but unfortunately, that’s not enough to stop poachers.
51. Where does poaching occur?
Poaching happens mostly in Africa. Zimbabwe and Kenya are the two countries affected the most by this illegal activity. However, smugglers have developed a worldwide network, so poaching isn’t limited only to Africa.
52. How to stop poaching?
Putting an end to the wildlife trade isn’t simple, but it can be done. There are a couple of things you can do:
- Ask before you buy — get information on the fabric, jewelry, where they come from, how they were made, was it fair trade, etc. If the vendor seems reluctant to answer, move along
- Stick to certified products — products go through severe inspection before they get a seal of certification, so this is the safest way to avoid wildlife trade
- Eat sustainable seafood — check the Marine Stewardship Council to be sure
The Bottom Line
We hope these poaching statistics show the dire situation some species are in.
Poaching isn’t a problem of the future, and it’s not something that can be ignored — it’s a problem that we need to fix today. If not for the animals themselves, then for our children.
If we don’t, they’ll only get to learn about them from books and videos. And the universe will never witness a tiger roar ever again or the gorilla pound on his chest.
- African Wildlife Foundation
- Al Jazeera
- Animal Matters
- Big Cat Rescue
- Center for Biological Diversity
- Earth Optimism
- Global Conservation
- Global Giving
- International Elephant Foundation
- Irish Examiner
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- Natural Habitat Adventures
- Poaching Facts
- Poaching Facts
- Rhino Fund
- Rhino Review
- Save the Rhino
- Save the Rhino
- University of Birmingham
- Untold Africa
- Whale and Dolphin Conservation
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- Wildlife Protection Society of India
- World Bank
- ZME Science