The Dehumanizing Side of Animal Poaching Revealed (MintPress) – Competition for the planet’s resources. Racism. Violence. Nuclear Weapons. These are all considered threats to global peace and stability. However, there’s another often overlooked menace to add to that list — illegal animal poaching. Aside from the obvious and insidious harm to animals, poaching is responsible […]
The Dehumanizing Side of Animal Poaching Revealed
(MintPress) – Competition for the planet’s resources. Racism. Violence. Nuclear Weapons. These are all considered threats to global peace and stability. However, there’s another often overlooked menace to add to that list — illegal animal poaching.
Aside from the obvious and insidious harm to animals, poaching is responsible for fueling wars and is also posing harm to humans in a myriad of ways.
A group of high-level international officials recently gathered at a summit in Thailand to discuss ways to deal with the problem, and the conference elicited a pledge from at least one nation to try to end the problem, but there is still a need for many countries across the globe to take seriously the devastating effects of animal poaching on humankind and the planet.
Poaching on the rise
Fifty to 100 elephants are killed every day for their ivory tusks.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) confirmed last month that Gabon’s Minkebe Park in Africa, which once was home to Africa’s largest forest elephant population, has lost a staggering 11,100 animals in less than a decade due to poaching for the ivory trade.
Recent surveys have revealed that two thirds of Gabon’s elephants have vanished since 2004, and the WCS estimates that the majority of these losses have probably taken place in the last five years.
Gabon contains over half of Africa’s forest elephants, with a population estimated at more than 40,000.
Of the dozens of species of rhino that once roamed the earth, only five now exist the International Rhino Foundation reports. Where there were once more than 100,000 black rhinos on the plains of Africa, there are now only 2,707 on the entire continent the staggering decimation of the rhino population is due to poaching, to satisfy the demand for the horn for use in Eastern traditional medicines and as dagger handles. Prices up to $40,000 per kilo have been recorded for the much-prized rhino horn, which is more than five times the price of gold.
Sea turtles and their eggs are often illegally poached. They are eaten and their shells and skins are also used to make a variety of objects like jewelry, sunglasses, tourist trinkets, instruments and wall hangings.
African lions’ numbers are diminishing rapidly due to the willingness of Asians and Westerners to pay handsomely for lion head trophies, combined with the urgent need for revenue among African locals means that these great predators are increasingly hunted for sport the Enkosini Wildlife Sanctuary reports.
Primates are hunted for sport. Various species of birds are coveted for their beaks, which are made into medicine. Sharks and other sea life and caught and eaten. The list of animals illegally sought by poachers goes on and on.
The effect of poaching on human populations
“Poaching has fueled regional wars in Africa, particularly the Great Lakes region,” United Nations Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey wrote recently in The Huffington Post.
The Lords Resistance Army (LRA) is “only one of a group of shady paramilitaries that engages in such trade employing the veneer of “rebels,” but also engaging in various human rights abuses as child soldiers, human trafficking, and mass rape/sexual exploitation. In several instances, park rangers and others have been butchered along with the wildlife they are designated to protect,” Sacribey explained.
There has been an increase in poaching activity noted in the Congo and other areas of Africa in the last few years, and several NGOs as well as the U.N. have noted that these poaching activities are connected to a variety of violent groups, including the LRA.
“The LRA role made news towards the end of 2012 – not just because of the killings of elephants, but due to the surge of interest in Kony through the flawed Kony 2012 campaign, which brought the LRA’s brutal modus operandi to global attention,” Keith Somerville, a professor at the School of Politics and International Studies, at the University of Kent and Editor of Africa – News and Analysis points out.
“Whatever the faults of ‘Invisible Children’s campaign,’ [a campaign which highlights the crims of Joseph Kony], it put the spotlight, albeit briefly, on the LRA and the U.S.-backed military operation involving Uganda, South Sudan, CAR and the DRC in trying to track him down. This has so far failed as he has proved able to traverse large areas of this region of multiple insurgencies, rebellions and porous borders.”
In addition to the LRA, the Somali al Shabaab movement and Darfur’s Janjaweed are also actively engaged in poaching elephants and using the tusks to buy weapons, according to information obtained by The New York Times. “Like blood diamonds from Sierra Leone or plundered minerals from Congo, ivory, it seems, is the latest conflict resource in Africa, dragged out of remote battle zones, easily converted into cash and now fueling conflicts across the continent,” the Times relays.
Sacribey points out that efforts to stop such illegal activity is dependent on national governments and law enforcement. The poachers’ weapons and means are financed by lucrative global markets, particularly the economic rise of Asia, which has created higher prices and means to fund new gangs and weapons.
And while some countries, like the United States or European nations for example may not have poaching going on on their soil, that does not mean that they share any less of the blame in the problem. “They support organized crime and an illegal weapons trade. They provide both means and incentive to corrupt law enforcement and politicians. The new networks now are international and collaborating on fueling the illegal trade and the conflicts/human rights abuses that provide some camouflage,” Sacribey writes.
Leaders convene to discuss a strategy
A delegation of representatives from over 30 countries internationally convened in Bangkok March 5 to to discuss wildlife crimes and their far-reaching effects.
The roundtable, which took place alongside the annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), brought together various officials and high-level representatives to share their experiences with tackling wildlife crime and to discuss what further steps which could be taken in efforts to combat it.
CITES is an international agreement between governments with the aim to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. This agreement however, is voluntary and not all countries around the world are members.
“Wildlife crime has recently been brought to the fore at the highest political level, including through the outcomes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development and resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Economic and Social Council,” CITES reports.
The organization points out that much needs to be done “to ensure that the scale of the response is commensurate with the severe and immediate risk posed by transnational organized wildlife and forest crime.”
Highlighted amongst the recommendations made at the summit were the need to engage the support of police and customs officials as the problem goes beyond the remit of wildlife law enforcement agencies.
Other challenges mentioned in stopping the problem include a shortage of funds and front-line enforcement officers, as well as a lack of the equipment and technology needed to respond to increasingly-organized and sophisticated crime groups, CITES said.
The discussion highlighted the compelling need to develop and implement coordinated and holistic responses to transnational organized wildlife and forest crime. The conference participants also concluded that comprehensive action across borders is needed in addition to support from international organizations and partnerships such as the International Consortium on Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), which hosted the meeting.
“It is now well-acknowledged that a more coordinated and comprehensive response is needed to combat wildlife and forest crime – which is a transnational and organized crime. Fighting poaching and illegal trade in wildlife is about fighting serious crime, especially when dealing with species that attract high returns such as elephant and rhinos. Strong and clear political messages from the highest possible levels are required to secure and underpin enhanced operational efforts, both at the national and international level, if we are to effectively combat transnational organized wildlife crime,” ICCWC, Secretary-General of the CITES Secretariat John E. Scanlon said.
While Thailand played host to the conference, the country is also well known to be one of the bigger consuming abusers. But Thailand is not the sole perpetrator, as illegal consumers span the globe from China to New York City.
However to convene the conference, Thailand’s prime minister has promised to tighten laws/regulations on import of “Illegally” obtained tusks.
It’s time other nations looked seriously at this problem and develop solutions to stop it.
Every 20 minutes the earth loses one or more entire species of animal or plant life — at least 27,000 species per year the African Conservancy reports. At the present rates of extinction, as many as 20 percent of the world’s 15 million species could be gone in the next 30 years.
“Does this trade not more than offend human sensibilities and empathy and present a danger to our shared global bio-diversity?” Sacirbey asks.
Indeed it does.