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Wild Crimes: A Natural History Museum podcast

Wildlife crime is one of the biggest illegal businesses in the world. Join us on a global tour as we uncover its dark underbelly.

In our podcast, discover some of the most shocking, sensational and sinister crimes committed against the natural world, and hear from the people working to end them.

Every day, animals and plants are poached, packaged and traded across countries and continents for profit. From critically endangered eels stuffed into suitcases to caged chameleons at the heart of the exotic pet trade, millions of animals are dying at the hands of organised, criminal gangs.

Trading wildlife can be a deadly pursuit for humans too. Our exploitation of the natural world is increasing the risk of future pandemics and fuelling the fire of biodiversity loss.

Join your hosts, Tori Herridge and Khalil Thirlaway, as they trace the origins of some of the biggest wildlife smuggling rackets on the planet, and go in search of solutions, both global and personal.

Listen below, or on SpotifyApple or Google.

Episode 10

What's the solution to wildlife crime?

In this episode of Wild Crimes, we look to the future. What impact is wildlife crime having on nature? Should blanket bans be imposed on traders? What can you do to help?


  • Simangele Msweli, Senior Manager of the Youth Leadership Program at the African Wildlife Foundation
  • John E Scanlon, Former Secretary-General of CITES and Chair of the Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime
  • Jorge Rios, Chief of the Wildlife & Forest Crime Programme at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Episode 9

Rhino botflies: hidden victims of poaching

In the aftermath of wildlife crime, victims can pile up quickly.

In this episode of Wild Crimes, we examine the fallout of southern white rhino poaching. One of the victims is clear - the white rhino - but others can go unremarked on. However, dung beetles and tiny rhino botflies are suffering too.

Rhinos are considered a keystone species, because their existence helps sculpt and shape landscapes and ecosystems. When they are killed by poachers, all sorts of knock-on effects are triggered. Why is the protection of creatures like the rhino so important? How does the loss of keystone species affect an ecosystem, and why are we humans often overlooking the repercussions?

Join the discussion with:

  • Rebecca Drury, Head of Wildlife Trade for Flora and Fauna International
  • Senior Curator for Flies and Fleas at the Museum, Dr Erica McAlister
  • Senior Curator in Charge, Insects, Max Barclay

Episode 8

Primates: eaten into extinction?

Bushmeat, meat from wild animals, is an important source of food for communities across the world. But in some parts of the globe it has become an illegal, luxury item - and that's posing a problem, threatening ecosystems and human health simultaneously.

Five million tonnes of wild meat is extracted annually from the Congo basin, including critically endangered primates. Demand for meat from this part of the world is becoming unsustainable, with protected species often caught between hunters and their prey. In this episode of Wild Crimes, join us for a in-depth discussion on how our food systems affect human health.

With thanks to:

  • Prof Ben Garrod
  • the Museum's Dr Natalie Cooper
  • Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) in Uganda
  • researcher Sandrella Morrison-Lanjouw.

Episode 7

Raptors: when birds of prey are persecuted

The UK's birds of prey regularly fall victim to criminal behaviour, with dozens found poisoned, trapped and shot every single year.

There are 15 raptor species native to the UK, with varying conservation statuses. Some of them are severely threatened, so every lost bird becomes a threat to the survival of the species. That means raptor persecution is a big problem.

Killing protected birds is a crime, but it goes on across the entirety of the UK. In this episode of Wild Crimes, we're finding out why are people risking jail time to kill raptors.

How can we protect our birds of prey? And why is this issue so divisive? Find out with:

  • Museum curator Dr Joanne Cooper
  • RSPB Investigations Liaison Officer Jenny Shelton
  • Dr Roger Draycott of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • landowner Dee Ward
  • author Alan Stewart
  • criminology graduate Ellen Burnside.

Episode 6

Dinosaurs: stealing the most expensive fossils in the world

In 2020, the most expensive dinosaur fossil ever sold was acquired by a private investor for £24.7m. Anybody with money can now get their hands on a T.rex or Stegosaurus - and when big fossils come with million dollar price tags, breaking the law can be lucrative business. In this episode of Wild Crimes, find out why the commercial trade in dinosaur fossils is such a big issue for science.

Discover more with:

  • Museum palaeontologists Dr Susie Maidment and Professor Paul Barrett
  • Professor John Long of Flinders University in South Australia
  • Dr Bolortsetseg Minjin at the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs.

Episode 5

Orchids: blooming on the black market

Billions of orchids are bought and sold around the world every year. Most of this trade is legal and made up of artifically grown flowers. However, alongside the regulated trade, thousands of orchids are illegally harvested from the wild - and it's causing big problems for some of the most coveted species.

The illicit trade in orchids is thriving, both on and off-line, to meet the growing demand for this extraordinary family of plants.

In this episode of Wild Crimes, we'll find out why no other plant has captured our imagination quite like the orchid, and learn about how we can better protect them.

Discover more with:

  • the Museum's Dr Sandy Knapp
  • Dr Jacob Phelps of Lancaster University
  • Dr Dave Roberts of the University of Kent
  • Dr Amy Hinsley at the University of Oxford
  • botanist Dr Tatiana Arias
  • collector Juan Felipe Posada.

Episode 4

A mammoth task: halting the ivory trade

Elephants are the poster child for the illegal wildlife trade. It is estimated that on average, 55 African elephants per day are killed for their ivory tusks.

Humans have coveted ivory for thousands of years, and demand eventually pushed elephants to the brink. International trade in their tusks is now banned, but a new product on the global market could be fuelling the flames for elephants: mammoth tusks.

In this episode, we'll find out how the trade in the tusks of extinct mammoths is influencing demand for elephant ivory. Are mammoths providing their living relatives with a lifeline, or are their tusks doing more harm than good?

Discover more with:

  • Museum Research Leader Prof Adrian Lister
  • Valery Plotnikov from the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia,
  • trade investigator Lucy Vigne
  • ivory trade research specialist Linda Chou.

Episode 3

Europe's biggest wildlife crime: eel smuggling

Did you know that Europe is at the centre of an illegal wildlife trade operation worth billions of pounds?

Gangs are thought to be smuggling up to 350 million live eels from Europe and shipping them to Asia every single year. Once at their destination, the young eels are farmed to full size and redistributed across the world. But why is the European eel such a valuable commodity? Why has the trade of glass eels been made illegal? And what effect is this having on the species?

Dive in with:

  • ZSL’s Dr Matthew Gollock
  • Eel researcher Kenzo Kaifu
  • Wildlife trade analyst Hiromi Shrirashi
  • Counter-trafficking advisor Grant Miller
  • The Sustainable Eel Group’s Florian Stein.

Episode 2

Chameleons: from jungle to pet shop

The global trade in exotic pets sees wild animals illegally caught and distributed around the world. Animals are often forced to trade in their homes in tropical jungles for cramped living quarters in towns and cities.

In this episode we explore reptile smuggling in Tanzania, a country with a diverse range of magnificent animals, endemic to only tiny pockets of rainforest. Tanzania has had a blanket ban on all wildlife exports since 2016, yet a range of reptiles - chameleons, snakes and geckos - have still found their way out of the country smuggled in luggage, wrapped up in socks or shoved inside plastic containers. They are destined for private collections, thousands of miles away from home.

But why are reptile traders turning to the black market, what pressure is this putting on chameleon species, and is there anything we can do about it?

Join us as we chat to:

  • Co-director of PAMS Michele Menegon
  • Tanzanian reptile researcher John Lyrukura
  • YouTuber and chameleon owner Megan Margot
  • Principal Curator in Charge of Vertebrates at the Museum Dr Simon Loader.

Episode 1

Pangolins: the world's most trafficked mammal

Pangolins are solitary, elusive and shy creatures native to Africa and Asia - there is nothing else like them on Earth. However, they're facing extinction because their keratin scales are traded by the tonne in many countries.

In this episode of Wild Crimes we're uncovering the pangolin trade. Why is a single pangolin worth risking your life for? How have they become the world's most trafficked mammal? And will they disappear within our lifetimes? Join us to find out.

Enlisting experts around the world, we'll meet people who are risking their lives to protect nature. Discover more with:

  • Museum Reseacher Dr Natalie Cooper
  • Professor Ray Jansen from Tshwane University of Technology
  • Cambridge University PhD candidate Charles Emogor 
  • Dr Karin Lourens of Johannesbury Wildlife Veterinary Hospital.