The protection of animal rights against poaching and animal trafficking is a widely discussed topic, with a large range of wildlife victims. Poaching can be defined as “the illegal trafficking and killing of wildlife” (National Geographic) with illegal trafficking referring to the “commerce of non-domesticated animals or plants, extracted from their natural environment or raised under controlled conditions” (WCS Wildlife Trade). One reason why poaching and animal trafficking often occurs is the large and increasing demand for exotic pets (animals deemed as more “unusual”), such as Indian star tortoises and red-eyed tree frogs (Hall, Jani. “Exotic pet trade, explained”). Another reason is that slaughtered wildlife, like the African Elephant, can be useful for food, jewelry, decoration, and traditional medicine (Hall, Jani. “Poaching animals, explained”). Currently, the United Nations is working towards terminating illegal animal trafficking globally. As an internal agency, UNEP and its Wild for Life campaign, with the aid of social media influencers,strives to raise awareness about the environmental, economic, and social effects that illegal wildlife trading has internationally (UN Environment Program). Furthermore, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is also tasked with working on the issues of tackling wildlife crime. In 2010, the UNODC, along with 4 other international organizations (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), International Criminal Police Organization, World Bank and World Customs Organization), formed an International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime, to work collaboratively with each agency and aid countries in combating the issue of illegal poaching and animal trafficking (UNODC).
One animal that has continuously fallen victim to illegal poaching is the African Elephant, due to ivory being taken from its tusks and used to make profitable jewelry and decorations. Between the years of 2014 and 2017, more than 100,000 African elephants were killed illegally. The constant poaching of animals is catastrophic for the wildlife population, in some cases even leading to the possibility of extinction (Hall, Jani. “Poaching animals, explained”).
In terms of live animal trafficking, specifically within the pet trade, animals are mercilessly stripped from their natural environment. These animals are often kept in small enclosures, such as boxes and suitcases, devoid of their freedom and specific diet. Even if these animals manage to survive transport, they suffer when forced to adapt to an unusual habitat and often die (Hall, Jani. “Poaching animals, explained”).
Although there is a wide consensus about the immorality of illegal poaching, many people still rely on such practices as their main source of income. The majority of poaching and animal trafficking occurs in Asia and Africa due to their lower socio-economic status. In 2015, a study was carried along Ruaha National Park, in Tanzania, with 173 villagers (all who claimed themselves to be involved with poaching) interviewed. According to the villagers, a few of the animals continuously poached were impalas, giraffes, bushbucks, warthogs, elands, and kudus. The study showed that there was a link between poverty and poaching when 46% of the villagers interviewed thought their households to be “poor”, compared to other households. Furthermore, this 46% had been found to have been poaching for longer and more intensively. However, not all those who poached were destitute: 60 were employed, with 20% using poaching to supplement their income and out of the 110 who were unemployed, 8% used poaching as their primary income. This 20% of employed poachers used it as a secondary source of income to supply their family with education and “advance themselves beyond year-to-year subsistence” (Jain, Neha. “Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?). Poaching is not always done with ill intent, but from the drive for long-term stability in food, housing, and education. Legislations against poaching and animal trafficking must therefore aim, not only to protect wildlife but also to prevent the poverty and lack of opportunities that will be caused by its termination. One might also want to target the root of the issue in order to solve the problem: organizations could prioritize reducing poverty in areas such as Africa and Asia, so that people do not feel the need to resort to poaching. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) aims to approach the issue of poaching and animal trafficking in a way that advocates for both a socioeconomic and environmental impact to the issue (Price, Fiona. “THE LINK BETWEEN POVERTY AND POACHING”).
Illegal poaching and animal trafficking is quite layered, and it is important to approach this issue with awareness, due to the cruelty suffered by animals, but also how it may impact those of a lower socio-economic status if it were to be eliminated.
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"What is Wildlife Trafficking?" WCS Wildlife Trade, wildlifetrade.wcs.org/Wildlife-Trade/What-is-wildlife-trafficking.aspx#:~:text=Wildlife%20trade%20refers%20to%20the,animals%20or%20their%20body%20parts. Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.