Illegal animal trade, once a high-profile environmental concern, has largely taken a back seat to climate change, habitat destruction, and pollution as a threat to biodiversity. Despite being out of the spotlight, however, so-called wildlife trafficking is a big business. The U.S. Department of State estimates that black-market trade in illegal ivory, snake skins and venoms, live birds, primates, tiger parts, rhino horns, and other wildlife and wildlife products generates between 10 and 20 billion dollars per year. China is the number one destination for such products; the U.S. is number two.
Large-scale ivory seizures have become far more frequent and somewhat larger in scale since 1998. The total weight represented by these seizures more than doubled from 34,061 kg in 1989-1997, to 76,084 kg in the nine years from 1998 onwards.
See this graph on large-scale ivory seizures:
Source: EarthTrends, 2008 using data from TRAFFIC, 2007