and because illegal wildlife trade is so financially lucrative, demand for wildlife and their parts has greatly increased, leading many species to become threatened or endangered. It has been estimated that the value of the global illegal wildlife trade is in the hundreds of millions of dollars¹.
The act of poaching includes the illegal hunting, killing or capturing of wildlife. It can include not just the failure to comply with regulations for the taking of wildlife, but also taking animals from protected areas, such as national parks or game reserves. Most countries have implemented regulations that are aimed at the protection of wildlife including hunting restrictions, and bans and restrictions on trade. Examples of poaching include hunting without a permit, hunting with a prohibited trap or weapon, hunting outside of designated seasons, and taking a protected sex or life stage of an animal¹,².
Why does poaching happen?
Humans have been hunting animals for most of our existence on Earth, and for a very long time, hunting has been necessary for survival and an important part of human culture. Animals parts have long been used as a source of food, medicine, and clothing, and some animals are considered sacred and integrated into different social ceremonies for different traditional cultures such as the North American Bison has been to the North American native people groups that lived on the Western Plains of the United States².
Sport trophy hunting is also a common practice that occurs throughout many countries around the world. While most of these nations now impose controls and limits on hunting wildlife, illegal hunting still occurs in many places².
For most of human history, many of these cultural traditions of hunting were not really a problem when our populations were relatively small and wildlife populations were relatively abundant and could easily recover their numbers. Today, however, we have surpassed those natural wildlife population limits, and in many cases, are driving many species to be threatened or even to extinction, in some cases. Perpetuated myths of health remedies made from animal parts also continue to push the limits of species numbers as well.
With more wildlife species becoming rarer and rarer in the wild, the demand for what few individuals remain drives higher prices for those who buy such resources.
Corruption and lax poaching laws with minimal protections for wildlife that have relatively few consequences allow wildlife poaching to continue relatively unchecked in many regions. Wildlife trade also often occurs within large international criminal networks, some of which also involve the trafficking of illegal drugs, arms, people, and terrorist activities¹.
At times, endangered species may be unintentionally caught and killed while trying to trap and hunt target food species¹.
Some species affected by poaching
A few of the endangered wildlife species that are currently threatened by poaching include: African Elephant, Amur Leopard, Amur Tiger, Bengal Tiger, Black Rhino, Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtle, Indian Elephant, Indochinese Tiger, Javan Rhino, Leatherback Turtle, Malayan Tiger, Orangutan, Sumatran Rhino, Sumatran Tiger, and White Rhino¹.
What is being done?
Conservation organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund are helping countries to comply with international trade regulations through education and the assisting with and funding the enforcement of regulations and anti-poaching efforts¹.
World Wildlife Fund works with wildlife trade monitoring organizations such as TRAFFIC and other partners such as other conservation organizations, communities, and governments¹.
Conservation organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund also work to educate the public about the role that making responsible and sustainable consumer choices plays in maintaining healthy wildlife population levels¹.
What you can do to help?
You can help to reduce the poaching of wildlife by supporting conservation organizations that are pushing governments to protect wildlife through the enforcement of wildlife protections, the implementation of effective deterrents, and helping to reduce the demand for products made from endangered species¹.