consequences for targeted species and their habitats. Besides, it has clear environmental implications, which illustrate how our environment is connected to our well-being and economy, as this illegal activity negatively affects ecosystems, our health and prosperity of local communities. It is important to know that the consequences to wildlife are not only devastating; they are also pervasive¹.
It is estimated that species population have declined by an average 40% between 1970 and 2000 ¹.
In Africa, poaching has led to the extinction of wild rhinoceros in Mozambique. And many other regions across the continent have witnessed a drop by 97% in rhino populations just over the last 100 years³. A similar story emerges in Asia with tigers, a species that was commonly found across most of the continent. Sadly, according to IUCN, numbers of these beautiful animals have shrunk so much that they can be now found living on less than 6% of their historical range.
Why is poaching happening?
Poaching is a lucrative, even if highly illegal, business: it is now the fourth most lucrative transnational crime after drugs, arms and human trafficking, worth between 10 and 20 billion dollars each year². But it also has a high environmental cost. Among its critical effects are not only the killing of the animal itself and the impact on populations but also severe impacts on the biodiversity of the ecosystem.
The consequences of poaching on ecosystems
Generally speaking, the removal of predatory animals from ecosystems results in an over-abundance of prey animals, leading to the destabilization and decline of vegetation. Similarly, the decrease of prey animals can lead to drops in predator numbers because of imbalance in the food chain³,⁴.
For example, elephants, a species highly prized by poachers, is critical to its local ecosystem by sustaining other organisms and helping to maintain the vegetation of the ecosystem by grazing and dispersing seeds.
The consequences of poaching on economies
In economic terms, the extinction of a species can have a negative effect on local tourism. The area not only becomes less attractive to potential tourists, but it also means that there is an increased chance of “tourist boycott”. A boycott could have a detrimental effect on a local economy since restaurants, hotels, rentals, and other attractions would suffer great losses in revenue. To illustrate the potential impact, it is worth noting that sub-Saharan Africa attracted 33.8 million visitors in 2012. If Africa was to lose its iconic species, this would in turn create a huge financial impact on the continent, most likely resulting in job losses particularly in the tourism industry which currently employs around 8 million people⁵.
Beyond the environment and the economy, poaching can have severe consequences on communities. Not only does it threaten traditional ways of living but it also relies on profiting from state weaknesses and corruption. This creates an inherent interest among poachers and criminals in actively undermining state economic development – a particular problem in a number of already vulnerable countries in the developing world.
Other impacts of poaching
It is also important to note that poaching is linked to beliefs that parts of animals have unique medical properties. In this respect, it can be argued that these traditional beliefs, which are not substantiated scientifically, have created a demand for a lot of the precious parts of animals that are being poached, for example elephants’ ivory or rhinos’ horns.
On a slightly different note, the impact poaching can have on our lives is more significant than we might think. As the emergence of numerous zoonotic diseases has been linked directly to wildlife crime. For example, the outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong has been traced to human contact with poached meat available on black wildlife markets³,⁴.