The Tragic Slaugther of Endangered Animals!
Wildlife trafficking and poaching is a growing problem in many places of the world. In areas like Africa, organized crime networks now cooperate with rebel militias, in a business that generates over 10 billion dollars every year. The biggest losers is the environment, and the animals themselves, many of whom are in a real danger of being extinct.
The illegal hunt for ivory elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns and parts from endangered tigers, are some of the most common types of poaching. Ivory horns and tiger skins are sometimes kept as trophies, but the biggest threat is the black market of traditional medicine (especially prevalent in China, Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam). Tiger genitals are believed to be aphrodisiacs, rhino horns are supposed to help against fevers and pain (and are even supposed to cure cancer), while ivory has for millenia been a status symbol in China. The sad thing is that the medical benefits of these things are just myths, and with the booming chinese economy, the demand is growing stronger every day. Around 60 percent of the population use traditional medicine in some form, and it is not easy to change centuries of culture, tradition and superstitions. America is also part of the problem, with illegal jewelery and other ornaments being sold throughout the country.
Wildlife poaching is so tempting due to the high economic rewards and the relatively low risks. One pound of ivory is sold for more than $1000 on the chinese black market, and some places it is worth even more than gold. Poor people in Africa therefore see poaching as an opportunity to earn many times what they would have the entire year in their ordinary jobs. The cooperation between organized crime and rebel militias, for example in the Congo, only makes the situation worse. Supported by international clients, the poachers now have the very best equipment when it comes to weapons, communication and even helicopters. Rangers who were already outnumbered, trying to protect endangered animals all over Africa, are now also outgunned by the criminals. As a cause of this, poachers are becoming more aggressive, breaking into enclosed areas to get their prize.
Siberian Tigers are in constant danger of poachers
Action is needed immediately though. In South Africa for example, over 450 rhinoceroses are killed every year, in addition to the ones that just have their horns cut off. There are some gruesome photos out there, and it is hard to imagine how someone could do these things to an innocent animal. The sight of a hornless “rhino” is a really heartbreaking sight. In 1950 there were more than 5 million elephants in Africa. Today, the number is way under 1 million, and illegal hunting has increased in countries like Kenya and Sierra Leone. There was a ban in 1989 on the international trade of african elephant ivory, but it is still very hard to control the black market. Russia and India also have huge problems with poaching. There are only 500 Siberian tigers (the Amur tiger) left in the wild, while the number of Bengal tigers has declined immensely in the last couple of decades.
There is no reason to give up though, and the only things that can help is increased awareness, more funding and harder penalties for the perpetrators. South African and Chinese authorities have started to cooperate, conducting several raids on chinese medicine stores, and it is important to support the conservation movement all over the world. There are many examples of species being extinct and lost forever, destroying entire ecosystems, and it would be in all of our interest to prevent this in the future. In addition to poaching, logging is one of the biggest threats to endangered animals. Deforestation destroys the natural habitat of the animals, and it is sad to see the Amazonas rainforest get smaller and smaller every year. We can all help though, and check out here on the World Wildlife Fund website how you can do your part!
A bunch of illegal elephant tusks seized by the police