Illegal Wildlife Trade

Illegal wildlife trade is a global issue that has been a hot topic recently.  Many people hear about poachers or the black market for ivory, but they may not know the extent of the issues.  To put things in perspective, “Rhino poaching in South Africa increased from 13 to 1,004 between 2007 and 2013” (World Wildlife Fund). This statistic is very alarming, because that the issue of illegal wildlife trade is exploding and prompts societal action.  Additionally, illegal wildlife trade is not limited to ivory.  Thousands of other species, such as the Green Turtle and the Amur Tiger, are threatened by illegal trade.

As human population continues to grow, the demand for resources does as well.  However, natural wildlife populations can’t always keep up with the increasing demand.  This is an even bigger issue for goods in demand from endangered species.  The demand these goods valuable, creating more incentive for poachers to hunt these endangered species.  An example is that a recent myth in Vietnam saying that rhino horns can cure cancer has caused an extreme spike in the price of rhino horn and poaching.  Poverty in foreign countries can amplify poaching, as it can be seen as an easy source of money.  Since poaching often occurs in less-developed countries,  it can be harder to regulate and enforce from global organizations.  Illegal wildlife trade and poaching can create imbalances in natural populations and ecosystems, promote extinction, and increase illegal activity and crime rates worldwide.

One potential area for improvement on the issue is increasing regulation and enforcement of illegal trade.  Global nations could fight more against illegal black market networks and increase the ramifications for violators.  Reducing corruption and crime in general could also reduce illegal wildlife trade, since poaching is caused by big organized crime networks.  Individual poachers are often poor locals and the only ones that get caught.  However, punishing an individual would not do much in the grand scheme of things, as it would just deter one person.  Individual poachers often work for or sell to larger crime organizations, so targeting the larger networks may be more beneficial.  Fighting the larger crime organizations could affect thousands of poachers as a result.  Another option could be that more nations could comply with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  To increase participation, global organizations could either offer benefits for compliance or penalties for defiance.

An additional approach could be on the consumer end, instead.  Society potentially could look into decreasing demand for illegal products as a whole in order to indirectly undermine illegal hunting.  The demand of illegal goods causes value to increase, which is one of the main reasons of why poaching is so prevalent in the first place.  While easier said than done, this approach suggests societal changes.  The people and societies that purchase these illegal wildlife goods need to learn to not value these goods as much.  The consumers might need more education about the topic, and they need to understand the irreversible environmental consequences from exploiting endangered species.  This knowledge could potentially reduce the demand for the illegal goods as a whole.

Additional effort can be placed into organizations against illegal wildlife trade.   For instance, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are two organizations that certify sustainable wildlife goods.  TRAFFIC is a wildlife trade monitoring network that helps regulate and enforce legislation.  Additionally, antipoaching brigades are groups that fight against illegal hunters.

Illegal wildlife trade is worldwide threat that is increasing at an alarming rate.  A lack of action towards the issue could cause extinction, ecological imbalance, and corruption.  While the issue is very complex, a mix of approaches to the issue could help.  Increased enforcement and regulation, consumer action, increased education, and more organizations could help reduce illegal wildlife trade overall.  Society needs to decide if they should treat illegal wildlife trade as a serious global issue.  If so, the issue needs addressed promptly before it grows even further.

“Illegal Wildlife Trade.” World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

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