Part 3 in the Nikela Series on Animal Poaching, and what its doing to endangered species, rhino, pangolin, lions, leopards, and primates in Africa [Parts of this article first published November 5th, 2011]
What is Animal Poaching?
Although poaching is a worldwide issue impacting wildlife, this article’s focus is on the continent of Africa.
Africa’s wildlife has seen tremendous decline over the past 50 years. Lions from 450,000 to less than 20,000. Giraffe populations down by 40%. One elephant being poached every fifteen minutes. And the sad statistics go on and on.
Some of the decline is due to habitat loss as human populations and need for resources keep expanding. However, much of the decline can be attributed to animal poaching.
[The following citations are repeats from Part 2 as they appear just as valid today]
The Encyclopedia of Earth defines Poaching like this:
Poaching is the illegal hunting, killing or capturing of animals. This can occur in a variety of ways. Poaching can refer to the failure to comply with regulations for legal harvest, resulting in the illegal taking of wildlife that would otherwise be allowable. Examples include: Taking without a license or permit, use of a prohibited weapon or trap, taking outside of the designated time of day or year, and taking of a prohibited sex or life stage. Poaching can also refer to the taking of animals from a wildlife sanctuary, such as a national park, game reserve, or zoo.
WikiAnswers puts animal poaching in historical perspective:
However, poaching defined as an illegal act of hunting a specified animal, goes back to before B.C. to the times of the ancient empires. However, modern poaching goes back to the late middle ages, when kings were the only ones to hunt specified animals, or were the only ones allowed to hunt in certain areas. If a peasant were caught hunting from said areas or animals, he or she could be executed regardless if they did it out of necessity.
Report for Animal Rights Africa:
The most comprehensive understanding of animal poaching and its impact on wildlife was found in Mike Cadman’s, “Consuming Wild Life: The Illegal Exploitation of Wild Animals In South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia”, March 2007 Report. The following are excerpts (some are abridged) from his work: [Unfortunately the link to the entire report is no longer available]
‘Poaching’ is defined as hunting wild animals for food and entrepreneurial exploitation, including the bushmeat trade for local and urban trade, trafficking (locally and cross-border) and trade in live animals and body parts.
The illegal killing of wild animals for meat, the so-called use and trade of ‘bushmeat’, is believed to be one of the greatest direct causes of the decline of wild animals in Africa. The increasing demand for bushmeat is also driving high rates of poaching. According to a CITES (Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna) resolution, poaching and illicit trade in bushmeat constitute the greatest threat to the survival of wildlife species.
A variety of methods are used to slaughter the animals. Firearms, indiscriminate wire snares and gin traps, hunting dogs and poison are all the tools of the poachers with the use of snares is the most common method of poaching in South Africa.
No matter the instrument each contributes to the agonizing death of tens of thousands of animals and birds annually. This barbaric treatment of wildlife not only causes untold suffering, pain and death, but literally poses an urgent threat to their survival as death is administered to individual animals, family groups and entire social networks.
South Africa and its neighbours have flourishing illegal wild animal markets and in South Africa, particularly, this is compounded by its geographical location and relatively sophisticated infrastructure. Indeed, poaching is taking place in an increasingly organised scale. Africa has seen the unprecedented annihilation of wild animals as a result of poaching and it is being fuelled by the profits that are made by commercial wildlife traffickers (often to satisfy consumer demand abroad) and uncontrolled commercial exploitation.
This is part of a global problem which according to Interpol is worth some US$12 billion a year. (Remember this report is from 2007, so it must be significantly higher now.) Throughout Africa, money is the driving force of this illegal trade and it is motivated by greed and aided by corruption, inadequate ranger staffing, public attitudes to wildlife, lack of public awareness, lack of data and lack of adequate law enforcement.
There are three general categories of consumptive use of wild animals: commercial trophy hunting, illegal poaching (including subsistence hunting), and commercial farming. Nearly all illegal poaching is commercial.
It is generally believed that wild animals are safe in Reserves. However, research has revealed that many of the reserves in southern Africa are heavily targeted by armed poachers. Of concern is that in some instances the park rangers themselves are poaching.
A research study undertaken by Professor Greg L. Warchol shows “numerous instances of rangers poaching for bushmeat, elephant ivory and rhino horn. In a Kruger National Park-sanctioned ‘culling’ effort, rangers authorised to kill 3120 impala illegally killed an additional 60 for sale to a local butcher shop. One Kruger ranger was arrested for shooting 20 white rhinos and another admitted to killing at least 46 over 12 years to pay his gambling debts.”
Why is Animal Poaching so Devastating?
As the studies and numbers suggest, entire species have and can be wiped out by animal poaching.
Species currently at risk of going extinct because of animal poaching
The pangolin, a small scaly anteater, is our planet’s most trafficked mammal. It’s scales are prized in Asia so locals in Africa are tempted to steal them from the wild. Entire crime networks exist to transport pangolin (dead or alive) from the wilds to the market place in Asia.
The rhino, a large herbivore with a coveted prize on it’s nose. Rhino, both the black and white species, are being poached daily. Their horns are brutally removed and smuggled to Asia. Rhino horn traditionally was used to cure a multitude of ailments. Today however, it is mostly viewed as a status symbol. The number of rhino poached over the years has been staggering. Recently the drop in poaching has been attributed to a possible severe decline in the population.
Fortunately there are Heroes who devise multiple strategies to protect rhino. Natalie and her team rescued, raises and now protect five young rhino and their wild rhino family from poachers.
The elephant, the large African giant with tusks to die for. Elephant remain abundant in some parts of Africa, while being poached at the rate of one every fifteen minutes in others. As herds lose their wise matriarchs to poachers the others are left wandering. Knowledge, like where to find water in dry times and where to find food in the winter is lost.
Fortunately there are Heroes who work hard to protect the elephant and their habitat. Lynn is one such person. Where there were no elephants now there are over 140. Lynn and her team have a holistic approach to saving elephants and subsequently other wildlife too.
Animal poaching is illegal, it is cruel, it puts entire species at risk and it is increasing. So unless we all take a stand, and please don’t wait as long as I did… well, we all know what will happen!
Somehow I know you won’t let it happen. You’ll be careful about the purchases you make, the hunting you condone, plus, you’ll volunteer your time and donate to your favorite cause that helps protect wildlife. If you don’t already have one, consider helping one of our Heroes.
Wildlife Heroes fighting poaching
Marnus saves Lions and their Habitat
Moses trades spears for shovels and helps poachers become farmers
Lynn stops elephant poachers
Natalie protects young rhino and their friends from poachers
Here are Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them
More endangered and threatened African Wildlife Species Facts.
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