The poaching of protected animals continues to be an alarmingly real threat to species survival. 2013 set annual record highs for rhino poaching deaths. Statistics show that one rhino is killed every 11 hours.
Why do poachers kill protected species under the threat of fines or imprisonment?
The answer is simple.
The market will pay excessive amounts of money for threatened or endangered species. According to the U.N. Environment Program, the global trade in wildlife is worth between $15-20 billion annually. Some protected species are killed for consumption. Others are sold as pets. Some are slaughtered for body parts.
There is a long held Asian belief that a rhino’s horn possesses magical medicinal benefits. The ground horn is used for a variety of ailments ranging from hangover relief to cancer cures. Once used only by royalty, the rhino horn now not only is a medicinal cure but is a status symbol for wealth and power. Costing about $65,000 a kilogram, wealthy Asian buyers either personally use rhino horns or present them as expensive gifts for business associates.
This is pushing the market to produce more horns and poachers are answering the market’s call.
According to the International Rhino Foundation, “Deaths of rhinos by poaching are fast approaching a tipping point, with the number of endangered creatures killed annually nearly outnumbering births for the first time. South Africa is the epicenter of the crisis, with a record 827 black and white rhinos killed so far this year, already far surpassing last year’s record of 668.”
Another animal being slaughtered for its body parts is the elephant. According to Jason Bell, director of Botswana’s Elephant Program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, 18 tons of ivory have been seized in 2013, representing the deaths of as many as 40,000 elephants.
What is being done to prevent these atrocious deaths?
Actually, it seems that many are joining the fight to save protected species; philanthropists, governments and individuals from around the world are joining together to stop the poaching in the South Africa. The safety of African wildlife is being talked about in summits and conferences with key politicians and leaders in attendance and agreement.
In the month of December alone, numerous steps were made to stop poachers and to save Africa’s precious wildlife.
Rolling Wildlife Trafficking News Stories
Nikela’s scoop.it page captures most news news worthy events “Wildlife Trafficking: Who does it? Allows it?”
Below is an abbreviated list of key events.
• The Great Elephant Census – Elephants Without Borders will coordinate a two year long project to conduct a census of all of Africa’s elephants. According to World Elephant Day, as many as 100 elephants are killed each day. The census will help to monitor elephant numbers. Trained counters will attempt to photograph every elephant herd in Africa. Aerial data will be cross-referenced with the land data to ensure accuracy of the census. The census is being largely founded by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen.
• Paris Summit on Peace and Security in Africa – Speaking at a round table on poaching that gathered French and African leaders, French President Francois Hollande said France would increase fines for illegal trading in ivory and endangered animal species. According to presidential aides, fines will be increased tenfold.
• New Technology: Rhinoceros DNA Index System (RhODIS)- Samsung said that this mobile application is used to gather DNA evidence, geographical data, and upload photographs. It links the suspect to a specific crime scene through matching DNA from recovered horns and weapons used to kill animals. The archive includes over 10,000 samples from black and white rhinoceros from all over Africa.
• 9th Biennial Scientific Conference – The conference was organized by the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and attended by wildlife researchers from different countries around the world. Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Khamis Kagasheki stressed the need for researchers to collect correct information and advise governments on better ways of conserving wild animals like elephants and rhinos, which are the target for poachers.
• European Commission dedicated 12.3 million Euros to combat the illegal wildlife trade over the next 4 years. “Minimising the Illegal Killing of Elephants and other Endangered Species (MIKES)” aims provide African states with resources to combat poaching and smuggling of endangered species. The “MIKES” project will improve the system of monitoring biodiversity and threats to it and extend coverage from elephants to other rare species. It will provide law enforcement training and technical support for patrol systems.
• African Elephant Summit -States agreed to implement immediate measures to prevent illegal trade and poaching of elephants throughout Africa. This deal includes ivory transit states including the Philippines and Malaysia and states where ivory is eventually sold on the black market such as Thailand and China. The President of the Republic of Botswana said, “Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act.”
Illegal wildlife trade creates a bigger problem than the reduction in species survival rates.
European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs commented: “Illegal killing of endangered species is currently one of the major threats to wildlife in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. It involves heavily armed and organized criminal networks, which contribute to insecurity and therefore hamper development. This calls for a coherent approach with a view to tackling the threats both to biodiversity and security in these three regions.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Danielle Jackson