By DAPHNE OKUYAMA, age 11

Poaching also threatens those animals that are becoming extinct, including wild tigers, which number as few as 3,200. PHOTO: Ross Elliott/Flickr
Poaching also threatens those animals that are becoming extinct, including wild tigers, which number as few as 3,200. PHOTO: Ross Elliott/Flickr

When people illegally sell wild animals, this is called animal trafficking. Trafficking wild animals has collected $19 billion on the black market around the world. It consists of selling live animals or parts of dead animals as delicacies, medicine, pets, hunting trophies, clothing and jewelry.

On April 10, 2013 a man named Song Shen Zhen was caught carrying two bags of dehydrated fish in his car on his way from Mexico to United States. Zhen was permitted to leave the port, but security agents tailed him to his house, and soon got a warrant to search. Inside they discovered hundreds of pieces of fish just like the other ones that were in Zhen’s car. Officials brought the fish to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, OR, where scientists discovered they were totoaba macdonaldi, a legally protected species. Zhen was prosecuted for animal trafficking.

In China, a single swim bladder from a totoaba fish can sell for up to 10,000 Yuan (about U.S. $1,600). U.S. officials believe that Zhen’s intention was to send the valuable haul to China and Hong Kong. Some people in China want to buy swim bladders because it is a delicacy. It is also believed to improve one’s skin if eaten in soup.

Poaching also threatens those animals that are becoming extinct, including wild tigers, which number as few as 3,200. But not all wildlife trade is illegal. Animals from tens of thousands of species are caught from the wild and then sold legitimately as food, pets and for making leather.

Some organizations and governments are trying to combat the problem. For example, after foreign poachers killed 300 elephants in a Cameroon park, the government sent a military force to guard its borders.

John Scanlon, the secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora says the effects of animal trafficking on endangered species are serious: “We can drive them to extinction simply through the illegal wildlife trade.”

Black market – the illegal trade or sale of controlled substances or products

Swim bladder – a special sac filled with gas that allows fish to control the depth at which they float in the water