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April 21, 2018  |  Login

Animal Poaching and The Black Market

The illegal taking of wildlife, dead or alive, exacts a terrible toll on many species around the world. National and international conservation laws including CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) are aimed at protecting animals, but enforcement proves difficult in the face of high demand.

Poachers driven by hunger may seek bush meat to feed their families. Others might kill wildlife illegally when seeking to cure a loved one with traditional medicine made with the parts of certain animals.

And poachers may also be involved in the international black market, illegally selling animals protected by law to those who covet various species for many reasons.

  • Live animals-especially babies-- are sought for the exotic pet trade.
  • Animal parts play a role in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), which also uses minerals and natural ingredients from plants. For example, tiger bone is used to treat rheumatism. TCM has been embraced by a number of cultures, adding to the demand - and the conservation community's concern for threatened, endangered, or otherwise protected species.
  • Travelers often seek out mementos that come from animals; popular souvenirs include
    • Jewelry made from shells and coral
    • Reptile-skin shoes, handbags, and belts
    • trinkets carved from elephant tusks or tortoise shell

Just how lucrative is the illegal wildlife trade? A single tiger sold on the black market for parts can bring US$ 50,000. The internet has boosted sales of wildlife across the globe, and the illegal black market in everything from snakes to primates is a significant portion of this multi-billion-dollar industry.

Besides threatening biodiversity, the illegal wildlife trade spreads disease as animals are shipped from one country to another, and causes animal suffering.

Here are a couple of examples of animals threatened due to poaching and the black market.

TIGERS: Pelts and Bones

Despite increasing awareness that these animals are disappearing from the planet, people continue to buy tiger skins, with their bold black and orange stripes, to decorate walls and floors. And even though China officially banned the use of tiger bone for medicines and removed it from the traditional medicine pharmacopeia in 1993 to protect these animals, people still buy tiger bone on the black market.

The cost? In 1900, the world tiger population was 100,000 strong. Today only about 3,000 survive, and at least three subspecies are gone forever. And poaching continues to play a significant role. In addition to outright fatalities, many tiger cubs are orphaned when poachers kill their mothers, and face grim survival odds.

SEA TURTLES: Eggs, Meat, and Shell

Sea turtles are in dire straits, and poaching is a major threat. The Hawksbill, for example, is critically endangered with a population decline of about 80 percent in the last hundred years. Along with other sea turtle species, they are in demand by humans in defiance of an international ban.

Hunters kill turtles for their meat, and dig up the eggs from nests on beaches to eat as well. Artisans use their richly patterned shells to make jewelry, combs and barrettes, and ashtrays. Sea turtle shell also decorates musical instruments, including guitars and rattles. And belts, wallets, and boots made from their skin are also popular in the tourist trade

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