The international animal trade is thriving, and smugglers are illegally hunting, buying and selling species ranging from Tigers to Turtles.
Depending on the species, the animals are sold either alive or dead. Buyers are looking for strange animals for a plethora of reasons. Some seek exotic animals, such as big cats and rare parrots, for pets. Others believe that certain animal parts have medicinal properties.
In the Philippines, for example, the government has just issued an official statement condemning the sale of geckos, which many south Asians believe will cure diseases as diverse asthma and AIDS. Although illegal, the lizard-smuggling business is booming in the Philippines. An 11-ounce gecko can be sold for more than 50,000 pesos ($1,160) on the black market.
The use of geckos as treatments has no scientific basis and could be dangerous because patients might not seek proper treatment for their diseases, a Health Department statement said.
For diseases like asthma, there are now very effective treatments that are easily available and at affordable prices that can provide relief from asthma. With regular treatment, asthmatics can successfully control asthmatic symptoms and live a comfortable, healthy life, the DOH said.
Many of the other species on sale are either endangered or protected, or both. Small turtles and crocodiles fetch thousands of dollars in Thailand, for example, and the international Ivory trade is well documented, but still rampant.
A worker holds a green turtle (Chelonia mydas) after unloading it from a truck in Denpasar, capital city of the province of Bali, May 19, 2010. Police said on Tuesday they foiled an attempt to smuggle 71 green turtles for food. The turtles, caught in the waters off Sulawesi Island, have an average weight of 100 kilograms (220 pounds). Reuters
Pasay City veterinarian Ronaldo Bernasor attaches tree branches to a steel cabinet in his office for two Philippine Scops Owls to rest on, after they were seized from a pet centre in Pasay City, Metro Manila June 19, 2010. Species including birds and reptiles were recovered during the operation. Reuters
India's crime branch officers hold a seized head of a Royal Bengal tiger outside a hotel in Nagpur March 16, 2011. Police on Wednesday said they arrested two men at the airport that were carrying the head and the skin of a tiger. Reuters
A newborn baby pangolin climbs the walls of a cage during a news conference at Thai customs in Bangkok April 20, 2011. The Thai custom office showed 175 pangolins they found hidden in a truck heading into Bangkok early this morning. Pangolins, or Manis Javanica, listed as endangered species in CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), are found in Southeast Asia. Some people believe that its meat and blood can enhance sexual virility. Reuters
A female orangutan stays in a cage after being seized from the owner by officials from the Natural Resource Conservation Agency in Aso Nangroe village, Aceh province, April 28, 2011. The orangutan has been with the owner for 3 months after she was caught by villagers, who passed her to him. Reuters
A three-month old white-cheeked gibbon looks from inside a cage after Thai police arrested a citizen of the United Arab Emirates at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok May 13, 2011. Thai police arrested a UAE citizen just after midnight today as he was preparing to fly first class from Bangkok to Dubai with various rare and endangered animals in his suitcases, which included four leopards, one Malayan sun bear, one white-cheeked gibbon, one black-tufted marmoset, an Asiatic black bear and two macaque monkeys. Reuters
A custom officer holds frozen pangolin meat near a container at Tanjung Priok harbour in Jakarta May 26, 2011. Indonesia custom has foiled a smuggling attempt of 7.5 tonnes (7,500 kg) of meat from endangered pangolins from the country's biggest port Tanjung Priok to Vietnam, custom officials said on Thursday. Reuters