Threat: The Illegal Wildlife Trade

The illegal wildlife trade is a multibillion dollar black market. Despite being protected under national laws and international accords, wild cats have increasingly been targeted over the last several decades for their furs, teeth, bones and other body parts, as well as for the live animal trade. The wide-ranging demand for felids is driven by usage in traditional medicines, fashion, decoration, status, the pet trade and more. 

Tigers and leopards have long been hunted for their skins and body parts, but traffickers increasingly have other wild cat species in their crosshairs. Decreasing tiger populations have traders seeking market substitutes and increasing buyer power around the world is inflating the demand for felids. Cheetahs and many small cat species are also being captured for the illegal pet trade. Panthera is proudly part of a growing movement to end the catastrophic illegal market for wildlife.

Our Impact 

Wildlife traffickers spin a vast web of communications and operations, unencumbered by laws or national borders, to pluck felids from the wild and ensure their products reach the end user. In answer, Panthera is building a transnational Big Cat Information Network to collect and connect data on the wild cat trade across six regions. In partnership with the United States Department of State and other institutions, we use that information to monitor global threat patterns and assist law enforcement agencies to plug knowledge and capacity gaps in order to disrupt illegal trade. This includes:

  • Holding workshops with judiciary members in Southeast Asia to promote stronger sentencing and punishment for poachers and traffickers. These workshops have led to record fines and penalties for traffickers;
  • Training rangers to detect wildlife smuggling and wildlife-detection dogs at key checkpoints in snow leopard range in Central Asia;
  • Teaching customs and airport employees to identify trafficked species in South America; 
  • Producing public service announcements about the illegality of buying or selling wildlife parts; and
    Reducing demand for wild cat furs in Southern Africa by producing over 18,000 high-quality synthetic furs through our Furs for Life and Saving Spots programs.