Poaching animals explained | national geography

Massive Wildlife Poaching: Millions of individual animals of thousands of species worldwide are killed or taken from their original habitats. Poaching poses a growing threat to elephants, rhinos and other characteristic animals, as well as smaller and more obscure creatures, such as certain lizards and monkeys.

Why animals get poached

Poachers sometimes kill or capture animals for local sale or for the global wildlife trade. The wildlife trade is a large black market that has grown as a result of rising prosperity in Asia – a major consumer of wildlife – and the emergence of e-commerce and social media.

Some animals, such as birds, reptiles and primates, are captured alive to be kept or sold as exotic pets. In contrast, slaughtered animals have commercial value such as food, jewelry, decorative material or traditional medicine. The ivory objects of the African elephants, for example, are transformed into jewelery or exhibits. Dandruff from pangolins, small animals that eat ants, are ground to powder and consumed for their supposed healing powers. The meat of monkeys, snakes and other jungle animals is considered a delicacy in parts of Africa.

Poachers not only kill for profit, but also target animals to avoid destroying crops or attacking livestock. This happens to lions and elephants in Africa, as well as wolves, coyotes and other predators in North America and beyond.

The consequences of poaching

Poaching has devastating effects on wildlife. In some cases, it is the main reason an animal is in danger of extinction. This is the case with the African elephant, of which more than 100,000 were killed for ivory between 2014 and 2017. Poaching has also had catastrophic effects on the rhinos, with more than thousands being slaughtered each year for their horns.

Poaching for the exotic pet trade affects not only the number of wildlife in the wild but also their well-being. Most wild animals eat certain foods that they find in the wild and they need space to fly, roam and hang in branches. Captive animals are stuffed in boxes, suitcases or bags, and even though they survive the transport, they often suffer in their new, unnatural situation.

Then there is the tragic way poaching affects people. Between 2009 and 2016, nearly 600 rangers were tasked with protecting wildlife in Africa shot by poachers while on guard. At least 170 rangers have been killed in the last two decades in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the continent’s most dangerous parks.

In addition, poaching has been linked to armed militias in Africa suspected of trading in ivory to fund their operations, and poaching is often linked to other crimes such as corruption and money laundering. And poached animals can spread diseases like Ebola and SARS.

Efforts to stop poaching

In addition to providing on-site protection for the animals, many countries make poaching punishable by imprisonment or fines. Because poachers in Africa and Asia are often poor local people who do not earn much compared to human traffickers and gang leaders, the penalties for poaching are generally less severe than for wildlife trade.

There are also several non-profit organizations around the world working to stop poaching. Some of these groups have helped promote alternative, more sustainable ways for poachers to earn a living. Another way people are working to stop poaching is by trying to reduce the demand for illegal (body parts of) wildlife. If no one buys the products, then the animals should not be killed.

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