Animal Poaching: Hunger, Greed or Ego?

Part 3 in Series on Animal Poaching. What’s at the heart of animal poaching? Three experts’ opinions: local bushmeat, rhino horn trade, trophy and canned/captive hunting, illegal wildlife trafficking, organized crime.

What’s at the Root of Africa’s Wildlife Loss?

This is the third in our Series on addressing the serious topic of poaching in Africa.

Opinions amongst the experts vary greatly as to who and what is at the root of Africa’s wildlife loss. Poaching, whether for bushmeat, harvesting the latest commodity, or labeled trophy hunting all impact the continued decline of Africa’s wildlife, especially the rhino, lion and leopard. This naturally leads to more animals and birds on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) endangered species (or red) list.

Three Expert’s Opinions

Here are three people in-the-know (wildlife conservation world) expressing their opinions:

Simon Stuart

(With the Species Survival Commission since the early 1980s and world renowned wildlife expert)

“If it wasn’t for poaching, all these species would have done fine, even despite habitat loss. IUCN lists almost 100 species of large mammal as Critically Endangered (on the edge of extinction), and in the great majority of cases this is driven by poaching. And this is not just a few species.”

From an interview by Michael Tobias, Forbes

Stuart includes both local and poaching for illegal trade when he talks about ‘poaching’. However, he looks at it being driven by poverty and not opportunistic illegal traffickers exploiting the vulnerable poor.

Chris Mercer

(Wildlife author, founder of Campaign Against Canned Hunting and possibly African wildlife’s greatest advocate and activist)

“Our wildlife desperately needs protection from conservationists who lack the intellect to understand that hunting is environmental terrorism, and should be banned… American trophy hunters and useless South African conservationists have allowed the ‘wild’ to be taken out of our wildlife.”

Taken from an article by Chris Mercer.

According to Mercer, it’s not the poaching or even habitat loss, but hunting, specifically trophy and canned/captive, that is African wildlife’s greatest threat to survival. There are 900+ game ranches in South Africa. Their main purpose is not conservation, but making money via hunting. These ranchers buy wild animals at auctions with little consideration for creating an ecologically balanced or sustainable environment for the wildlife. It becomes more like livestock farming with no other end in mind besides profits.

Buyelwa Sonjica

(South Africa’s Environmental Affairs Minister)

Back in April 2010, when the onslaught on the rhino was just getting started, while addressing the MPs in a National Assembly about the rhino crisis she said,

“…we are dealing with sophisticated mafia, from Asia, from all over the world.”

This view considers organized crime to be at the very core of the rhino problem, and that they are the very same people who are behind drug, human and gun trafficking. Sadly, that makes the rhino just another commodity. Less well known is that leopards are being poached for their skins, buffalos for their horns and lions for their bones.

So who is to blame?

Any way you look at it, the survival of wildlife is not being considered, their right to life is being ignored, so in my mind they’re being ‘poached’, be it for bushmeat to be consumed locally, traded illegally or captive/canned hunting to hang a trophy on a wall somewhere. Each of these are about quick, big money or ego. And we have a word for this… exploitation.

All three are threats to the existence of Africa’s wildlife. However, which truly is the biggest threat? Its important to come to some sort of an agreement here, because, each requires a different solution.

Ideally they all would be addressed simultaneously, and in some ways they are. However, the crucial question may well be, which one would have the fastest and best results? And then everyone could focus time and resources towards that solution, bringing in the others as deemed feasible.

After all, wouldn’t you agree, that every true wildlife advocate (conservationist, activist, lover of, naturalist, rescue/rehabber) wants nothing more than for wildlife to be kept wild and allowed to live without fear of being poached by a hungry local, a greedy poacher, or egotistic hunter?

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2 Responses to Animal Poaching: Hunger, Greed or Ego?

  1. Mary Jane Green December 17, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Since some “poachers” have stolen horns from museums, I think that rules out hunger. Poaching for rhino horn or elephant tusks is big business, run by syndicates, who pay off officials. This isn’t theory. The poachers have high powered equipment. If the horns have been removed, in hope of protecting the animal, it is often killed for spite, along with offspring, if a female has one. This has to stop.

    • Wildlife Margrit December 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

      Right on Mary Jane! Thanks so much for adding your voice to this crusade to help save the rhino.

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