When traveling in areas where poaching is widespread – such as China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Nepal, and various African regions – it can be very helpful to conservation efforts to keep alert to suspicious activity so you can report it. You may spot souvenirs and medicines made from illegal materials such as rhino husks or tiger skin, even “exotic” dishes at restaurants, particularly in south-east Asian countries, where there is particular demand for tiger meat.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) met in Doha, Qatar recently and discussed the state of numerous animal species across the globe. They found that tigers, rhinos, elephants, and bears (among other species) are victims of organized crime rings that take part in the illegal trading of these animals’ body parts.
In fact, the illegal trade of wildlife is so lucrative – at some GBP 10 billion per year – that it is only topped by the trade of drugs and weapons.
Below I will summarize the conditions of some species on the verge of extinction: tigers, rhinos, and elephants.
The illegal trade of big cats continues to escalate despite warnings from the UN that they will disappear unless the trade is stopped. Their population has been cut by about 50% in the last decade – there are fewer than 3,200 tigers left in the wild! Don’t even get me started on the atrocity that is zoos and tiger farms … And tiger farms, by the way, have been found by the World Bank (which leads the Global Tiger Initiative) to stimulate illegal trade of tiger body parts.
“Although the tiger has been prized throughout history, and is a symbol of incredible importance in many cultures and religions, it is now literally on the verge of extinction,” said CITES secretary-general Willem Wijnstekers.
Tiger bones, for example, are used to manufacture medicines. In China, the trend continues despite a ban on tiger bones and products imposed in 1993.
“It is almost four decades since the world realised that tiger numbers were falling alarmingly,” CITES said.
And I don’t know if this is real or a hoax, but apparently you can buy farmed tigers from India online.
Ivory and rhino horns are in some places rumored to have the capacity to boost sexual prowess and even cure cancer. The black rhino, unfortunately, has already been classified as critically endangered.
“They emerged with a small consignment of ivory and rhino horn worth an estimated 850,000 rand – about £75,000, or $114,000.
“… Last year, a Vietnamese diplomat was recalled to Hanoi after being filmed apparently buying rhino horn outside her embassy in Pretoria.
The Addo Park hold-up is perhaps the most striking event to date in what is, by all measures, an escalation in the illegal wildlife trade.”
Ivory trading was banned internationally in 1989. Regardless, Zambia, Tanzania, and other countries that allegedly manage elephant populations efficiently through reliable systems for tracking tusks, have been allowed to trade three times since the ban’s implementation.
Because poaching has been increasing since 2004, Kenya, Mali, and other African countries have been pushing for a 20-year ban on legal ivory exports. These countries argue that even legal trade provokes poaching, and some studies support this claim. Meanwhile, China is currently the main market for the rampant trade of illegal ivory, despite its promises to combat smuggling gangs.
The main problem seems to be that, evidence found by conservation groups notwithstanding, police and customs authorities are not enforcing the law against poachers and traders. And if this doesn’t change – and soon – these species will simply disappear, at least in the wild.
The next post will feature other poached species on the brink of extinction.