Our world, more beautiful and bounteous than we could ever create, is extraordinary with plants and animals that complement the life humans experience on Earth. However, numerous people see our environment as something to be plundered, somewhere to profit resources from.
Animals are frequently the victims of what is known as the illegal wildlife trade, primarily the poaching of often endangered species for something that is believed to be valuable. All around the globe, conservation is at risk of being overturned by illegal wildlife trades, which are currently growing unprecedented rates. Some examples of illegal wildlife trades are well known, such as the poaching of African elephants for ivory or Bengal tigers for their skins and bones. But countless other species are similarly overexploited, such as marine turtles. Protecting our wildlife and global environment is vital in preventing the extinction of various species. Our flora and fauna shouldn’t be exploited or threatened because of human greed; they should have the right to live freely in their own natural environment.
Animal poaching, which is when an animal is killed illegally, occurs for numerous reasons. Wildlife crime and trade is a huge business and mostly run by dangerous, international criminals. Dealing, trading and running an illegal wildlife trade is low risk to the organisation itself, as the poachers are the only ones caught. This leaves the real masterminds behind these evil and cruel enterprises safe to continue profiteering. These organisations are fuelled by the black market selling expensive animal body parts perceived to be valuable in underground markets. These body parts include pelts, furs, tusks and horns. Ivory alone is sold at a rate of 100 million US dollars per kilogram. Experts estimate the value of illegal trafficking runs into hundreds of millions of dollars – the exact figure is difficult to predict because international crime networks frequently use complex, ever-changing routes to export, import and trade these items. This is done to take advantage of weak governments, poor surveillance and corruption. Governments in certain countries often have weaker judicial systems than others, allowing poaching to continue with little regard for the consequences.
There are also many myths that circulate around particular products, such as Vietnam rhinos’ horns supposedly having the ability to cure cancer or other items being a status symbol in some countries. Animals are on the brink of extinction because of these groundless myths that lack scientific evidence. These wildlife items, believed to be valuable, have increased in demand across the past few decades, alongside the steady growth of human population. The prices of these items have also increased as a result of increasing demand, further motivating criminal organisations to produce more products such as rhino horns, elephant ivory and various animal skins.
As well as encouraging international crime enterprises to continue working in the illegal wildlife trade, poaching also spurs on those in poverty or lower incomes, as they see this as an opportunity to gain wealth. However, there is one crucial question: What is the life of other magnificent creatures worth?
Furthermore, this cruel, criminal business creates devastating impacts to wildlife across the globe. Poaching is one of the largest threats to endangered animals; the second largest cause of habitat loss and has caused the endangerment of countless species. These captivating creatures, such as Asian tigers, African elephants, Hawksbill turtles and many more are all victims to barbarous methods of poaching, which include the use of drugs and electrocution. Poachers would administer drugs such to knock the poor animals out, then hack off the ‘valuable’ body part such as horns, tusks or claws, and heartlessly leave them to bleed to death. Electrocution is another terrible method, where cages are wired up so that creatures such as tigers are lured within and electrocuted with 230 volts.
The demand for these products has sky-rocketed, especially in Asia, causing a surge in African elephants being poached. An estimated 30,000 elephants are killed every year to meet the ruthless demand for illegal wildlife trade, thereby putting their existence on the line nearing extinction. would show that every 15 minutes, elephants die because of poaching. At this rate, African elephants would become extinct in as little as 11 years. These creatures’ populations and habitats do not increase at the same rate as humans, so they are unable to keep up with our demand and greed.
A key example of this is the Black rhino. Black rhinos are vital African animals, as they are the main grazers of the continent. These creatures used to be found in every African country, but their numbers have now been pushed to the brink of extinction. Now they can only be found in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Kenya. The poachers of these species and many more, often kill the mothers of young, leaving their babies to die. These babies cannot survive without their mother and consequently die of hunger, thirst or other natural causes. Their only chance of survival would be being picked up by rescue centres and cared for.
As well as impacting on our animal populations, these issues also impact our own human society. Law enforcement against poaching has caused challenges as the illegal wildlife trade undermines the development of a sustainable economy in the countries that it takes place. African rangers who patrol territory to protect vulnerable wildlife are often killed because this minimal level of control does not stop ruthless poachers. These rangers also face temptations because they are able to earn more as a poacher than a ranger. Tourism industries would also suffer with lower profits as less tourists would visit to explore the wildlife if most of it was extinct.
In order to tackle the issue of poaching and the destructive illegal wildlife trade, there are many actions currently being undertaken. If actions and funds are effectively supplied and directed, there is a significant chance of conservational success to repair the existing damage. Ivory trade was made illegal in 1989, only 31 years ago. However, corruption within governments and politicians is rife while trying to stop these criminals. Current sentences in India for poaching or dealing in the illegal wildlife trade only consist of a 10 year fine of 25,000 R.S, approximately $530, which is outrageously low.
Future actions must be undertaken in order to prevent and limit the amount of poaching. Local communities fighting against poaching are a starting point that attempts to encourage the end of this nefarious act. Finding alternative incomes for those who have been threatened, tempted by or involved in the illegal wildlife trade is vital. In addition, the rangers who patrol wildlife protected areas have difficult and dangerous jobs, often relocated far away from family and homes with inadequate training. Improving those conditions and adequately training these rangers who patrol the threatened animals is extremely important to help increase the numbers of rangers in Africa.
Many charities and groups are persevering in their fight to combat poaching. TRAFFIC is the wildlife trade monitoring network that aims to prevent the illegal wildlife trade across continents such as Africa. The International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) is helping lead an international movement to end poaching. The WWF are also determined to see the end of trafficking of wildlife products and poaching, but they need everyone’s help. The most powerful objective of all is public education that keeps everyone aware of this increasing threat to our animals and environment, in order to help them make better choices. By discouraging purchases of certain wildlife products and increasing the production of sustainable wildlife friendly goods, we can all act against the illegal wildlife trade.
To reiterate, the illegal wildlife trade and poaching is heavily impacting the global environment and community. The illegal wildlife trade is endangering many threatened species and possibly humans as well. Animals’ body parts such as pelts, tusks, horns, claws, bones, and skins are being trafficked like drugs and must not be treated as such. Animals matter and especially this issue. We must tackle the crisis of illegal wildlife crime, especially poaching. Everyone should play their part by raising awareness within their local, national and international community…
… before it’s too late.
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