Poaching, which is a recognized crime, is stealing or killing wildlife from protected areas such as national parks. Poachers can be fined as well as imprisoned. Money is what primarily motivates the poachers. Some stand to gain 3 or 4 million dollars a year, some get a windfall for bringing in a grizzly bear or a Big Horn sheep.
Why should I be aware of this?
As a result of poaching a number of magnificent animals are on IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) red list.
Animals in danger of extinction are detailed in the Red List of Threatened Species which has been compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Asiatic black bears, bigeye sand tigers and black rhinos are all endangered.
Apart from that there is widespread killing of various types of animals, mainly for profit.
- Thousands of wild bears have been poached from their natural habitat in Vietnam. They are kept in cages in the cities; bile is regularly extracted from them and sold.
- Marine turtles are hunted down. Products made from turtles’ shells are sold around Indonesia and Vietnam. Turtles are also poached for their meat and eggs.
- Leopards and musk deer are popular targets for poachers in Nepal.
- In India and Africa, elephants are stolen and killed for their ivory tusks, which are then made into ornaments and jewellery.
- In Singapore, nets as large as two stories high have been seen, strung between trees in an attempt to snare whole flocks of migratory birds.
All about poaching
As poaching is lucrative business it has emerged as organized crime. Parts of threatened species are sought after because of their rarity. Rhinos’ horns and tigers’ skin and bones are smuggled to countries like China, Tibet and Taiwan where they are illegally sold as traditional medicines. According to the latest figures, there are only 40,000 elephants in the world today as against 100,000 earlier. Asian elephants are regularly killed for their ivory tasks. This has considerably reduced the number of male elephants in the continent, resulting in skewed sex ratios.
Wild animal markets, where traders buy and sell endangered animals, have for the most part been shut down but skin and ivory ornaments can be found on sale in markets worldwide.
In the last twenty years the wholesale price of Asian tusks has increased in most countries. This is because of the growing shortage of ivory. More than 85 per cent of all ivory items offered for sale are jewellery, which is easy to smuggle.
All poaching is caused by the desire for profit of some kind. The difference is the scale of profit.
- Subsistence poachers poach to get food, or to sell the poached animal for a small amount of money in order to buy food. They are driven by poverty and hunger.
- Commercial poachers poach as a money-making venture. They are driven not by the need to survive – but by a desire for financial gain.
- Trophy poachers poach to make enormous profit through trading in endangered species. They are driven by sheer greed.
Both commercial and trophy poaching exist because there is a worldwide demand for the products. This demand is caused by lack of education amongst the buyers.
target mainly smaller animals
- Insects like mopane worms, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and termites
- Birds like guinea fowl
- Small-to-medium antelope such as duikers, gazelle, impala, did-diks and bushbuck
- Larger antelope like Lesser Kudu and Eland
- Other small-to-medium sized mammals like porcupines and bush pigs.
- Commercial poachers hunt most of what Subsistence Poachers hunt
- Also, larger species - right through to animals like Cape Buffalo and elephants.
mainly go for endangered species:
- Rare reptiles, including certain tortoises
Illegal trade in wildlife
A large number of species are threatened by illegal trade which is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and involves a large number of animals and plants. Since the 1970s about 90 percent of the world’s rhinos have been slaughtered mainly because of their horns. The World Wildlife Fund promoted TRAFFIC is the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network. Read about some TRAFFIC-featured projects
Rhino poaching in Kaziranga National Park
Poaching is rampant in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) in Assam, India, which is believed to be world’s largest habitat of one horned rhinoceros. Several deployment of security personnel including the police have failed to prevent the killings in the park area. According to reports, some local gangs are in collusion with some foreigners and terrorist outfits in carrying out these operations. UNESCO had declared KNP a heritage site and it is home to almost 75 per cent of world’s rhino population.
What can I do?
- It is important to spread awareness of the consequences of poaching as this will have an impact upon the buyers’ market.
- Refuse to support poaching and don’t buy any product that you suspect to be derived from poached or endangered animals.
- Increasingly local governments are asking restaurants and other businesses not to illegally trade or use wild animals. This includes serving food dishes made from wildlife. If you visit a restaurant or hotel with wild meat on the menu, make a report to the relevant authorities.
- If you are in a national park and see any suspicious activity: a dead animal or strange people loitering, report what you have seen to one of the wardens.
- The punishment for poaching in the king's forest in Norman times was severe: Richard I's assize of 1198 threatened deer-stealers with blinding and castration
- It is illegal to import ivory to the U.S. but it is claimed to be the world’s largest importer of illegal ivory
- “Vegetable ivory” is made from the “tagua, a tropical palm tree, produces nuts that closely resemble elephant ivory in look, feel, and carving properties. The difference is that tagua is a renewable product that doesn’t cost the lives of great animals.
- Tiger trade is prohibited internationally and also is banned domestically in many countries, including China − historically the largest market for tiger products.
- Indonesians consider animals like the turtle, tiger, monkey, and bat to be delicacies. They believe that the animals contain certain medicinal values and should be eaten for specific ailments. People believe that eating turtle meat will bring a longer life. Another swinging trade is that of live bats hearts sold as the recommended treatment for asthma.
- Rhino poaching still rampant in Kaziranga
- Animal Planet
- Visit Endangered Animals. Click on each continent in the map and see details about the animals endangered by poaching.
- See pictures and read details at Animals Pix.