In 1987, Florida adopted the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) as its official reptile. Who could have foreseen that three decades later this stately, scaly, once endangered creature would find itself at the center of a thriving “marsh to market” economy generating around $7.6 million for the state per year, let alone an ensuing crime ring?
This spring, a peculiar case shed light on Florida’s highly lucrative, highly regulated alligator farm industry, as well as on a ring of alleged gator egg poachers. State’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers concluded a four-year sting operation this May with the arrests of nine men alleged to be poachers, the largest investigation of its kind. Nicknamed “Operation Alligator Thief,” the sting snared the men on 44 felony charges collectively, including stealing, racketeering and falsifying court records; court proceedings will likely commence in early 2018.
The 1,200 or so wild elephants remaining in Myanmar, on the border of China, are in danger. They are being ruthlessly poached, but not for their ivory tusks. Many of these elusive elephants don’t even have tusks. Instead, they are being hunted and killed for their skin.
The extent of the problem was starkly revealed earlier this year when 25 dead elephants were found in the Ayeyawady delta in southwestern Myanmar. Prior to this incident, experts believe that the killing of elephants for their skin was rare.
Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India is home to two-thirds of the world’s Indian rhinoceroses. When the park was started about 100 years ago, only a few of the species remained. Now there are more than 2400 at the park, despite a black market value of between $60,000 and $300,000 for just one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rhino horn.