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Most imported endangered animals to America

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ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP // Getty Images

Most imported endangered animals to America

Humans are driving many ecological changes happening globally, including the possible extinction of several species. Because of the human species' ability to change its environment, humanity has either directly or inadvertently changed almost every species of animal, plant, bacteria, fungus, and virus on the planet.

In some ways, this is a positive. Humans have been able to save some species from extinction, alter species to be more successful in a rapidly changing environment, and created new species to help lift pressures off of native species. More likely, however, human interactions have had a negative impact.

Humans are responsible for the extinction of the Arabian ostrich, the auroch, the Atlas bear, the broad-billed parrot, the bush wren, the California grizzly bear, the Cape lion, the Caucasian wisent, the Chatham bellbird, the Cuban macaw, the dodo, the Saudi gazelle, the Japanese sea lion and river otter, the laughing owl, and many others. These extinctions were sometimes the result of overhunting, human-created pollution, or human developments endangering or blocking mating grounds. Sometimes, the extinctions were intentional.

As issues like climate change and mass deforestation continue to reshape animal habitats, we must accept that the largest single factor in global change—for good or bad—is us.

To examine animal importation to the U.S., Stacker consulted the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Trade Database and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Stacker found the top 50 endangered species which have had the most specimens imported to the U.S. between 2008 and 2018, according to importer-reported quantity. The species on this list are those considered vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered by the IUCN Red List.

While the CITES database and the Red List are comprehensive, they are neither exhaustive nor inclusive and do not account for illegal smuggling. The data presented is accurate as of 2018.

Recognizing the human impact on the natural world is only the first part. To preserve the world's species for future generations, radical reconsiderations for deforestation, residential and commercial development, industrial processes, and hunting must happen.

Keep reading to learn why the world's coral may be on the verge of disappearing.

You may also like: 50 of the world’s most endangered species

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Paul Muir // Wikimedia Commons

#50. Acropora horrida

- Scientific name: Acropora horrida
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 12,053 (73 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals, specimens
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Australia, Fiji

Acropora horrida is a species of stony corals found in shallow tropical reefs. Uncommon and suited to shallow pools with high turbidity or cloudiness, the coral ranks high on "must-have" lists among coral collectors.

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A. Abdoli // Wikimedia Commons

#49. Persian sturgeon

- Scientific name: Acipenser persicus
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 12,744 (31 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: caviar, eggs, derivatives
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal
- Top exporting countries: Italy, France, Iran

The Caspian Sea-native Persian sturgeon is hunted for its roe and fished for its flesh, which is considered a delicacy. River damming, water pollution, and indiscriminate harvesting have led to the species' critically endangered status. Recognizing behaviors leading to the species' endangerment can help improve the Persian sturgeon's chances. However, the most pragmatic approach may be sturgeon hatcheries.

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PRAKASH SINGH/AFP // Getty Images

#48. Indian python

- Scientific name: Python molurus
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 12,975 (222 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: leather products (small), leather products (large), skin pieces
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, circus or traveling exhibition
- Top exporting countries: Italy, China, Japan

The python molurus or Indan python is a slow-moving, water-loving snake native to the Indian subcontinent. Capable of reaching nearly 10 feet in length, the python is commonly confused for the Burmese python. The snake is endangered because of being killed out of fear, being trapped as pets, deforestation, and leather harvesting. Pythons are protected by international treaties banning the trade of live pythons or python products.

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Paul Muir // Wikimedia Commons

#47. Acropora microclados

- Scientific name: Acropora microclados
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 14,282 (65 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, zoo
- Top exporting countries: Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Australia

Acropora microclados—sometimes called Strawberry Shortcake Coral in the coral collector community—is an uncommon, tropical shallow reef coral. A highly iconic species because of its short multicolored branches against a teal-blue base making it highly photogenic, the coral is currently endangered because of tourism, shipping, and fishing. Water temperature changes, human harvesting, and increased pollution have also contributed to endangerment. Habitat restoration is the preferred method of conservation.

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Oksana Maksymova // Shutterstock

#46. Disc coral (T. reniformis)

- Scientific name: Turbinaria reniformis
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 15,797 (78 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals, carvings
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, scientific, personal
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Tonga

Disc coral is a class of mushroom coral that typically grows in the Indian Ocean and the southwestern Pacific Ocean. A solitary coral that likes to build on rocks as juveniles, this coral is popular with reef aquarium owners for its distinct shape and bright colors. As coral reefs are increasingly endangered because of storm damage, decreased dissolved oxygen levels from agricultural runoff, coastal development, and climate change, the coral that calls them home are increasingly at risk of disappearing forever.

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#45. Common tortoise

- Scientific name: Testudo graeca
- Red List status: Endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 16,229 (90 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, carvings
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal
- Top exporting countries: Jordan, Germany, Switzerland

The Greek tortoise, also known as the spur-thighed or common tortoise is one of the longest-lived animals currently in existence. Common in the Black Sea area and North Africa, the tortoise is known for its large scales, spurs on its thighs, and rectangular shell. Typically weighing less than 10 pounds, these tortoises are pet-size, making them common for live trade.

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Vinicius R. Souza // Shutterstock

#44. White-lipped peccary

- Scientific name: Tayassu pecari
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 16,382 (87 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: leather products (small), trophies, garments
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, hunting trophy
- Top exporting countries: Italy, Spain, Mexico

The white-lipped peccary is a peccary common to rainforest areas in Central and South America. A peccary is a pig-like hoofed New World animal that has been called the skunk pig traditionally cultivated as a food source. A peccary is unrelated to domestic pigs, as domestic pigs are Eurasian-African in origin. Similarly to domestic pigs, peccary skins can be made into a high-level of leather. The white-lipped peccary is most endangered, however, from the shrinking rainforest, which is vanishing because of deforestation and livestock ranching.

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Chaloklum Diving // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Galaxea astreata

- Scientific name: Galaxeaastreata
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 16,614 (56 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Fiji, Australia

Another class of stony coral, galaxeaastreata, can vary in size, shape, and color. What distinguishes this species is the corallite that is about four millimeters in diameter. The coral is considered common and is endangered due to threats to the coral reefs.

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Saran Jantraurai // Shutterstock

#42. Paddlefish

- Scientific name: Polyodon spathula
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 16,682 (8 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: caviar, eggs, specimens
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, medical, scientific
- Top exporting countries: United Kingdom, Japan, Germany

Unchanged since it was discovered in the Late Cretaceous fossil record, paddlefish is arguably one of the oldest species still alive at 70 to 75 million years old. The paddlefish is a ray-finned fish that is present in the Mississippi River and Yangtze River. Heavily over-fished and subject to river damming, the Chinese species of the fish may now be extinct, as it has not been seen since 2007. While wild paddlefish are exclusively Chinese and American, farm-raised American paddlefish are being raised throughout the European Union and the former USSR.

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MDC Seamarc Maldives // Wikimedia Commons

#41. Ice fire

- Scientific name: Acropora echinata
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 16,983 (73 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, educational, personal
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Australia, Fiji

The bottlebrush-like coral acropora echinata has gained the unusual name ice fire for its bluish tone with pink, purple, or white branchlets. A shallow-water, tropical reef coral, ice fire is uncommon and grows in captivity to about six inches in diameter.

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MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP // Getty Images

#40. Polar bear

- Scientific name: Ursus maritimus
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 18,220 (126 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: specimens, teeth, skins
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: scientific, personal, hunting trophy
- Top exporting countries: Canada, Denmark, Norway

The largest land carnivore on the planet and the largest land mammal in North America, the polar bear is a legendary creature. The polar bear, a sibling species to the brown bear, lives almost exclusively on the Arctic ice, taking to the sea to hunt. As a polar bear is ill-equipped to hunt on land, losing the polar ice cap and hunting by polar communities have reduced its numbers. There is controversy, however, about whether the bear is endangered or not.

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Peter Douglas Clark // Shutterstock

#39. Elkhorn coral

- Scientific name: Acropora palmata
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 18,850 (57 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: raw corals, specimens, live
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: scientific, commercial, personal
- Top exporting countries: Belize, Mexico, Bahamas

A key component of Caribbean reefs, the Elkhorn coral is notable for its elk antler-shaped branches. Unlike other types of coral, the white band disease outbreak, which causes the diseased coral tissue to separate from its skeleton decimated Elkhorn coral. While the disease occurs naturally, it is thought that the warmer waters caused by climate change are contributing to the continued spread of the white band disease bacteria.

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SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP // Getty Images

#38. Green turtle

- Scientific name: Chelonia mydas
- Red List status: Endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 19,567 (288 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: specimens, carapaces, shells
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: scientific, personal, commercial
- Top exporting countries: Mexico, France, Cayman Islands

The green sea turtle—also known as the Pacific green turtle and the green turtle—is typically not green. With an olive to black shell and scales, the turtle gets its name from its fat, which is usually green. The turtles have been found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. The turtle has been hunted for food and because it is an animal that relies on the shores to nest and lay their eggs—pollution, real estate development, and fishing have all diminished the turtle's numbers.

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Honza Hruby // Shutterstock

#37. Asian elephant

- Scientific name: Elephas maximus
- Red List status: Endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 19,647 (471 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: ivory carvings, specimens, carvings
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: personal, commercial, circus or traveling exhibition
- Top exporting countries: Canada, United Kingdom, Thailand

The Asian elephant is a distant, smaller cousin of the African elephant. The largest land animal in Asia, the Asian elephant can be found on the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Deforestation and habitat fragmentation are leading reasons for the Asian elephant's declining numbers. However, the leading culprit is the illegal poaching of the animals for ivory derived from their tusks.

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Ahmed Abdul Rahman for MDC Seamarc Maldives // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Disc coral (T. mesenterina)

- Scientific name: Turbinariamesenterina
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 20,563 (44 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Australia, Philippines

Turbinariamesenterina is an encrusted coral, which produces flat or concave plates of corallites on just one side. These plates can vary in size and configuration, depending on water conditions. A common, dominant coral species found from eastern Australia to the Red Sea, this coral has fallen victim to the deterioration of the global coral reefs.

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Andreas Altenburger // Shutterstock

#35. Reeves' turtle

- Scientific name: Mauremysreevesii
- Red List status: Endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 20,885 (90 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: medicine, derivatives, live
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, scientific
- Top exporting countries: China, Vietnam, Hong Kong

The Chinese pond turtle, also known as the Chinese three-keeled pond turtle or the Reeves' turtle, is typically found in eastern Asia—particularly, China, Japan, and Korea. Caught as pets, used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, and subjected to habitat destruction, the Reeves' turtle must also compete with red-eared sliders, which are sometimes released into the wild after being pets.

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Victor Tyakht // Shutterstock

#34. Saiga

- Scientific name: Saiga tatarica
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 21,122 (106 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: medicine, derivatives, horns
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: personal, commercial, educational
- Top exporting countries: China, Hong Kong, South Korea

The Saiga antelope is a critically endangered species of antelopes. Hunted to extinction in China, southwestern Mongolia, Romania, and Moldova, the antelope exists in disparate bands in the former southwestern USSR and western Mongolia. In traditional Chinese medicine, Saiga horn is highly prized, while its meat has been compared to lamb and is considered a traditional food for some in eastern Europe and western Asia.

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#33. Euphyllia paradivisa

- Scientific name: Euphylliaparadivisa
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 22,292 (58 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Tonga, Solomon Islands

Euphylliaparadivisa, also known as branching frogspawn coral, is a stony coral that is common in the Coral Triangle area. This area—defined by the international waters off the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands—is one of the largest concentrations of reef-building coral in the world, with over 500 species present. Because of coral naturally supporting large fish populations, this area fuels a multibillion-dollar fishing and tourism industry that is destroying the Coral Triangle.

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Suvorov_Alex // Shutterstock

#32. Siberian musk deer

- Scientific name: Moschus moschiferus
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 23,378 (22 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: medicine, musk, extract
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, hunting trophy
- Top exporting countries: South Korea, Canada, China

The scent of musk, as commonly used in colognes, is curious, and—like most elements in perfumery—somewhat controversial. While musk can be produced using other biological elements, such as ambergris, the best source for natural musk is the scent gland of a musk deer. With each gland only capable of producing a small amount of musk oil, the Siberian musk deer—in northeastern Asia—is highly at risk of poaching, although there are efforts in place ranging from perfecting artificial musk to cloning the Siberian musk deer.

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Perla Sofia // Shutterstock

#31. Colombian night monkey

- Scientific name: Aotus lemurinus
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 25,739 (12 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: specimens, bodies, skulls
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: scientific, personal, commercial
- Top exporting countries: Panama, South Africa

The gray-bellied night monkey, also known as the grey-legged douroucouli and the lemurine owl monkey, is a nocturnal species of monkeys that are native to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. A small monkey, adult males weigh about 1.3 kilograms (almost 3 pounds), the night monkey has been cultivated as food and for pharmaceutical research. As a forest-dwelling animal, they are also subject to deforestation.

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RZ_Videos // Shutterstock

#30. Hippopotamus

- Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibius
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 29,589 (1,173 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: trophies, teeth, tusks
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: hunting trophy, personal, commercial
- Top exporting countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania

The common hippopotamus is one of the first non-farm animals children learn about. The semiaquatic sub-Saharan Africa mammal is the third largest land mammal alive—following the elephant and the rhinoceros—and is the closest land-living relative to whales. Because of their size and to their teeth—which can be harvested for ivory—the hippopotamus is a common target of poachers and trophy hunters.

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Xavier Hoenner // Shutterstock

#29. Hawksbill turtle

- Scientific name: Eretmochelys imbricata
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 30,461 (417 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: shells, carvings, specimens
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: personal, commercial, scientific
- Top exporting countries: United Kingdom, France, Mexico

The hawksbill sea turtle is not so different from other sea turtles, save its curving beak, saw-like shell margins, and slight color-shifting shell. This unique shell has been cultivated by tortoiseshell enthusiasts. Most hawksbill turtles, however, are endangered by indiscriminate fishing, where the turtles are regularly caught in dragnets.

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Andy Deitsch // Shutterstock

#28. Scalloped hammerhead

- Scientific name: Sphyrna lewini
- Red List status: Endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 30,852 (32 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: fins, specimens, live
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: scientific, circus or traveling exhibition, commercial
- Top exporting countries: Australia, Hong Kong, Belize

The first shark on our list, the scalloped hammerhead—also known as the bronze, kidney-headed, and southern hammerhead—is the most common type of hammerhead shark. With its eyes and nostrils physically positioned at the end of head extensions, the shark has exceptional smelling and seeing capabilities over a wider angle than most other sharks. Common in tropical and subtropical waters, hammerheads are hunted for their fins—with fins typically cut off of living sharks, while they return the rest of the shark to the water to die.

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Chaloklum Diving // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Disc coral (T. peltata)

- Scientific name: Turbinariapeltata
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 33,445 (71 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals, specimens
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, scientific, educational
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Australia

What we think of as coral is really the exoskeleton of a marine invertebrate that is usually only a few millimeters wide and a few centimeters long. Colonies of these invertebrates, which are likely asexually produced polyps from the same original organism, will form as a defense against larger animals and to help combine efforts in tasks such as hunting. For species such as turbinariapeltata, this results in encrusted coral plates common to East Africa and American Samoa. As these are small, delicate creatures, human interactions—intentional or accidental—can have devastating effects.

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Bernard DUPONT // Wikimedia Commons

#26. Tipped bubblegum coral

- Scientific name: Physogyralichtensteini
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 36,703 (80 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, educational, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Australia, Micronesia

The pearl bubble coral is one of these complex coral ecosystems. During the day, the coral displays fleshy, bubble-like vessels that offer a safe harbor to several animals, including shrimp. At night, however, the coral unleashes their tentacles to entangle passing nutrients. Common to the Indo-Pacific region, this coral is highly prized by aquarium owners.

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nachbarnebenan // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Chinese pangolin

- Scientific name: Manis pentadactyla
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 38,220 (29 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: derivatives, medicine, scales
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: personal, commercial, circus or traveling exhibition
- Top exporting countries: Vietnam, China, Laos

The Chinese pangolin is a scaly anteater in China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. One of the few mammals to have scales, the Chinese pangolin has been hunted as food and for its claws and scales. While there is legislation in most nations outlawing the killing and trading of Chinese pangolin, its meat, blood, and other parts are in such high demand, authorities have had difficulties stopping poachers.

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TEH ENG KOON/AFP // Getty Images

#24. Tiger

- Scientific name: Panthera tigris
- Red List status: Endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 40,741 (272 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: medicine, derivatives, live
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: personal, commercial, circus or traveling exhibition
- Top exporting countries: Vietnam, China, Canada

Another "first animal" children learn about in grade school, the tiger is the undisputed king of the cats. An apex predator—meaning that it has no natural predators, save man—tigers are known for their distinct orangish fur with black stripes. A member of the world's charismatic megafauna, tigers are revered and have been featured highly in mythology, folklore, and modern storytelling. As tigers live in some of the most densely populated areas on the planet, tigers are increasingly running afoul of humans and human developments.

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Asaf Weizman // Shutterstock

#23. Eastern gorilla

- Scientific name: Gorilla beringei
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 42,702 (35 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: specimens, bones, bone pieces
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: scientific
- Top exporting countries: Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda

The world's largest primate, the eastern gorilla is another member of the charismatic megafauna club. With fewer than 5,000 individuals estimated to be alive in the wild, this species—which includes the subspecies the mountain gorilla and Grauer's gorilla—is facing extinction at the hands of illegal trophy hunters, poachers, and agricultural development.

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Olga Alper // Shutterstock

#22. Beluga

- Scientific name: Husohuso
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 44,661 (170 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: caviar, eggs, extract
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: personal, commercial, circus or traveling exhibition
- Top exporting countries: Iran, the Russian Federation, Turkey

Also known as the European sturgeon, the beluga is widely regarded for its roe, which can be made into Beluga caviar. A native of the Caspian and the Black Sea basins, this fish can live more than a century and is the second-heaviest bony fish known to exist, after the ocean sunfish. Because of the high value of its eggs, the fish has been over-poached. This, coupled with the fish's late maturity, has led to diminishing populations.

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magnusdeepbelow // Shutterstock

#21. Tiger tail seahorse

- Scientific name: Hippocampus comes
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 44,708 (32 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, specimens, bodies
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia

Compromised largely due to habitat destruction and its importance in traditional Chinese medicine, the tiger tail seahorse is a common inhabitant of coral beds near India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore. The tiger tail seahorse is one animal whose fate is directly influenced by the fate of the world's coral, as it eats coral, plankton, small shrimp, and small fish.

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Gdiggers // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Euphyllia paraancora

- Scientific name: Euphyllia paraancora
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 61,043 (75 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals, bodies
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Australia, Tonga

The branching hammer coral is an uncommon coral species and a popular coral with aquarium owners. The coral typically features tight concentric circles clusters with brightly colored tips.

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Frédéric Ducarme // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Blue coral

- Scientific name: Helioporacoerulea
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 66,807 (74 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: raw corals, live, carvings
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Italy

The blue coral is a unique species of coral that has an eight-fold symmetry with its exoskeleton, giving it a fern-like appearance. Having the largest skeleton of the octocoral species, blue coral is extremely tolerant, making it suitable for aquariums.

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Aprisonsan // Wikimedia Commons

#18. Green peafowl

- Scientific name: Pavo muticus
- Red List status: Endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 89,454 (22 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: feathers, live, bodies
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, circus or traveling exhibition, personal
- Top exporting countries: China, United Kingdom, Belgium

The green peafowl, also known as the Java peafowl, is a native of Indonesia. Male peafowls are known as peacocks, and female peafowls are peahens. Unlike the common or Indian peafowl, which is not considered endangered, the green peafowl has been heavily hunted and poached. Additionally, much of its native habitat has been taken over for human development, with wildlife sanctuaries and national parks being the species' last refuge.

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#17. Walrus

- Scientific name: Odobenus rosmarus
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 106,954 (422 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: ivory carvings, carvings, tusks
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: personal, commercial, circus or traveling exhibition
- Top exporting countries: Canada, United Kingdom, Indonesia

Similar to seals in appearance, the walrus is the only surviving member of the family Odobenidae. Known for its prominent tusks and their massiveness—which is only matched by the elephant seal—walruses live on the Arctic ice. The walrus has been hunted for its blubber, skin, tusks, and meat, with heavy hunting in the early 20th century almost driving the species to extinction. The species has recovered, although climate change presents a new threat.

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WDavis1911 // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Smooth giant clam

- Scientific name: Tridacna derasa
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 111,258 (136 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, shells, meat
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Palau, Micronesia, Solomon Islands

The southern giant clam or the smooth giant clam can reach 60 centimeters (23.62 inches) in length. While not as large as its cousin the giant clam which can reach 20 meters (66 feet) in length, the smooth giant clam is still regularly hunted as aquarium additions and as food. However, most traded smooth giant clams today are commercially grown, as the species was among the first clams to be successfully bred in captivity.

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Vladimir Wrangel // Shutterstock

#15. Sterlet

- Scientific name: Acipenser ruthenus
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 112,088 (97 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: caviar, eggs, eggs (live)
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, breeding in captivity
- Top exporting countries: South Korea, Hungary, Germany

The sterlet is a small species of sturgeon that is found in the Black, Azov, and Caspian Seas. Used for its flesh, roe, and to make isinglass, the sterlet population is dropping due to overfishing, river damming, and water pollution. Isinglass is dried fish bladders used in the filtering and finishing of beers and wines.

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XAVIER SANCHEZ CRIBALLES // Shutterstock

#14. African bush elephant

- Scientific name: Loxodonta africana
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 120,062 (3,209 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: ivory carvings, leather products (small), tusks
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: personal, hunting trophy, commercial
- Top exporting countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, United Kingdom

The African bush elephant is the largest land animal on Earth. Another member of the charismatic megafauna, the elephant is a distinctive part of African lore and tradition. More than any other animal—short of coral—the African bush elephant has been threatened by habitat destruction, as new human developments potentially cut short or block the elephant's migratory patterns. Poaching is also a significant problem.

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ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP // Getty Images

#13. Kaluga

- Scientific name: Husodauricusx Acipenser schrenckii
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 132,112 (66 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: caviar, bodies, meat
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, law enforcement /judicial/forensic, personal
- Top exporting countries: China, United Arab Emirates, France

Also known as the river sturgeon, Kaluga is arguably the largest freshwater fish in the world. Weighing up to a ton, these fish feed on salmon and other fish common on the Amur River. Like other sturgeons, the Kaluga has been fished nearly to extinction for its roe. Fishing for Kaluga on the Amur is a punishable offense.

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PAUL ATKINSON // Shutterstock

#12. Heliofungia actiniformis

- Scientific name: Heliofungiaactiniformis
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 138,564 (79 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals, specimens
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, scientific, educational
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Australia, Solomon Islands

A species of mushroom coral, heliofungiaactiniformis grows in solitary patches in the Indo-Pacific region. Popular among the aquarium scene, the species has been subjected to over-collection, climate change, and disease.

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Konstantin Baidin // Shutterstock

#11. Amur sturgeon

- Scientific name: Acipenser schrenckii
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 145,894 (70 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: caviar, eggs, skin
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal
- Top exporting countries: France, China, Germany

Caviar is the salt-cured roe or fertilized eggs of a member of the sturgeon family. While beluga caviar cultivated from the Caspian Sea can fetch $16,000 per kilogram, there is enough of a market that caviar from any sturgeon would be in high demand. The Japanese or Amur sturgeon, for example, has been hunted to near-extinction for its roe and flesh. The fish, which can reach lengths of 3 meters (9.8 feet) and weights of 190 kilograms (418.88 pounds), is a bottom-dweller.

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Anne Hoggett // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Euphyllia cristata

- Scientific name: Euphyllia cristata
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 154,327 (95 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals, jewelry
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, educational, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Australia, Tonga

Grape coral is a stony or hard coral common in Indo-Pacific waters, particularly around Indonesia. With this species forming a colony between 20 and 40 millimeters in diameter, the colony can take the appearance of an unopened flower or a grape cluster.

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Josuevg // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Wonder coral

- Scientific name: Catalaphylliajardinei
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 167,386 (108 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals, bodies
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, educational
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia

Wonder coral, also known as elegance coral and ridge coral, comprises large, visible polyps. The polyps are fluorescent green or lime green, while their long tendrils are purple or brown. This gives the coral a unique, eerie look that is favored by aquarium owners.

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ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP // GettyImages

#8. Spotted seahorse

- Scientific name: Hippocampus kuda
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 195,193 (114 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, specimens, bodies
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, scientific, zoo
- Top exporting countries: Canada, Vietnam, Australia

The spotted seahorse—also known as the common seahorse, the estuary seahorse, and the yellow seahorse—is an inhabitant of coastal waters, harbors, and sheltered estuaries in waters from Hawaii to the Persian Gulf. The spotted seahorse is a common ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. It's also endangered because of targeted catching for aquarium owners and accidental catching during shrimp trawling.

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#7. Central Asian tortoise

- Scientific name: Testudo horsfieldii
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 235,634 (92 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, derivatives
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: personal, commercial
- Top exporting countries: Uzbekistan, United Kingdom, Ukraine

The Central Asian tortoise—also known as the Russian tortoise, the Afghan tortoise, Horsfield's tortoise, and the steppe tortoise—is a small tortoise species, ranging from 5 to 10 inches in length among adults. True to its name, the tortoise is endemic to Central Asia. Changes to its home, including human developments, endanger the tortoise.

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#6. European eel

- Scientific name: Anguilla anguilla
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 240,621 (58 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: meat, leather products (small), live
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, medical, law enforcement/judicial/forensic
- Top exporting countries: Mexico, China, Tunisia

The typical main ingredient in East London's jellied eels, the European eel is a long-lived fish—a specimen has seen 155 years, for example—common in bodies of freshwater within the European Union, Turkey, and several of the Baltic States. Attempts to grow the eel in captivity is underway. Like many river fish, the European eel is subject to damming, overflow pollution, overfishing, and climate change.

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Nick Hobgood // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Euphyllia ancora

- Scientific name: Euphyllia ancora
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 241,812 (157 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: live, raw corals, carvings
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, educational, personal
- Top exporting countries: Indonesia, Australia, Solomon Islands

The first entry on our top five is—no surprise—a coral. Euphyllia ancora is a class of hard coral—also known as anchor coral, hammer coral, sausage coral, and butter honeycomb coral—that is defined by its puffy, T-shaped tips. Either gold, green, or gray, it is an over-harvested coral in the aquarium trade. Its environment, like that of the global coral population, has also been damaged by climate change, pollution, and human intervention.

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#4. Burmese python

- Scientific name: Python bivittatus
- Red List status: Vulnerable
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 381,014 (1,272 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: leather products (small), leather products (large), garments
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, circus or traveling exhibition
- Top exporting countries: Italy, France, Switzerland

The Burmese python is the fourth-largest species of snake in the world. Once considered a subspecies of the Indian python, the Burmese python is now a species upon itself. Typically averaging 12.1 feet in length, the Burmese python has reached 18.8 feet. Because of the illegal dumping of the python and the destruction of a python-breeding facility during Hurricane Andrew, the Burmese python is now considered an invasive species in the Florida Everglades and in northern Florida, where they established a viable population.

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HUGO BORGES/AFP // Getty Images

#3. Isostichopus fuscus

- Scientific name: Isostichopusfuscus
- Red List status: Endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 802,344 (82 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: bodies, live, specimens
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador

The brown sea cucumber is typically found from the Pacific coast of Mexico to the Galapagos Islands. A delicacy in some cultures, harvesting has depleted the population to where the brown sea cucumber community may no longer be sustainable.

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#2. Siberian sturgeon

- Scientific name: Acipenser baerii
- Red List status: Endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 1.28 million (727 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: caviar, extract, eggs
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, scientific
- Top exporting countries: Germany, France, Switzerland

The Siberian sturgeon is found in north-flowing rivers for the Kara, Laptev, East Siberian Seas, and the Irtysh River. The Siberian sturgeon is a small species, with the heaviest individual caught weighing 210 kilograms. The fish has been most impacted by damming, with 40% of the species' spawning grounds no longer accessible.

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Dako99 // Wikimedia Commons

#1. Russian sturgeon

- Scientific name: Acipenser gueldenstaedtii
- Red List status: Critically endangered
- Total specimens imported to the U.S., 2008-2018: 2.62 million (412 total shipments)
- Top types of animals/animal products imported: caviar, extract, eggs
- Top purposes for importing to the U.S.: commercial, personal, breeding in captivity
- Top exporting countries: Germany, France, Switzerland

The most endangered species on our list is the Russian sturgeon. Also known as the diamond or Danube sturgeon, the sturgeon is a slow reproducer, making overfishing a grave matter for the health of this species' population. Native to the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, and the Sea of Azov, the fish lives in the same areas as the beluga.

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