Poverty and poachingBig mammals all around the world are at risk because of poaching. The countries most impacted are the poorest ones despite the presence of natural parks and nature reserves. A recent scientific review examined the decline of mammal species and found that between 1980 to 2020, 294 species were illegally hunted in the parks designed to protect them. There is a clear link between poverty and poaching; the environment, animals and people can all be helped by alleviating poverty.

What Animals are Poached?

Endangered animals that are commonly poached are elephants, rhinos, tigers, sea turtles, lemurs and gorillas. Despite efforts to save these animals, high rates of poaching still threaten them. Currently, poachers are the single greatest threat to elephant’s survival. Their ivory makes elephants a highly-prized target. Similarly, rhinos are hunted for their horns. As a result, the western black rhinoceros went extinct in 2011.

Why is it a Threat in Poorer Countries?

Poverty and poaching have many reasons for commonly coinciding. However, it should be stated that poverty does not lead to poaching. It is one of the drivers, but to say that poverty causes poaching is not exactly correct. The International Conservation Caucus Foundation states that “the extreme poverty of many African communities induces their complicity in African-based, Asian-run poaching networks.” Due to a lack of conservation resources, a boom in bushmeat trade and the desire to increase socioeconomic status, poaching rates remain high. Another major driver is corruption. Research from the University of New York identified that corruption and poverty actually influence poaching more than the adequacy of law enforcement.

Who Poaches?

An important clarification is that it is not necessarily the poorest people who poach. A major influence on poachers is their financial status relative to others in their community rather than total amount of wealth. Many poachers are not among the absolute poorest, but they collect bushmeat to supplement their income. They need the funds they receive from bushmeat, ivory and rhino-horn trade for basic needs. In a 2015 study in Tanzania, 96% of villagers said they would stop poaching if they received enough income through other means. Evidently, poverty and poaching are inseparable.

Can Poaching Be Stopped?

Anti-poaching programs need to take a multidimensional approach to tackling both poverty and poaching. Increasing law enforcement isn’t enough. Top-down measures, such as increasing patrols and arrests, may help reduce the number of people who poach to gain a little extra income, but it will not dissuade those who depend on it for their livelihood.

The key is to implement bottom-up strategies that increase opportunities and agency for these communities. Poaching is seen as a method to raise people out of poverty. However, what researchers and conservationists need to understand is that poverty is relative rather than absolute. By understanding this fact, they can start to ask questions such as: how much do households need to be elevated out of poverty to help prevent them from poaching?

CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is making a difference. It is an international agreement that aims to protect wild animals from going extinct through international trade. The ideas for CITES were first formed in the 1960s, but now they have evolved greatly. CITES places species in one of three appendices, each representing a different level of endangerment. The first appendix provides the greatest level of protection with restrictions on commercial trade. CITES prevents poaching using an international approach that advocates for socioeconomic and environmental change.

This is a messy issue that has very little clear data and even fewer clear-cut answers. The extent to which poverty and poaching are correlated is still debated and researched; however, it is certain that poverty has an effect. The issue of poverty must be addressed in order to resolve the issue of poaching.

Fiona Price
Photo: Flickr

reducing poverty eliminates poaching
Poaching rates have climbed at an alarmingly fast rate. In fact, with continued growth, it is predicted that most of Africa’s vulnerable wildlife will be extinct by the end of the average person’s lifetime. The statistics indicate that there has been a 5,000 percent increase in rhino poaching alone throughout Africa between 2007 and 2011.

Several studies have attempted to determine the main cause of poaching, or illegal hunting, throughout Africa; the main source was found to be poverty. These same studies have shown how reducing poverty eliminates poaching, and stress the necessity to address this serious problem.

Current Efforts to Reduce Poaching

Poaching is a form of income for poor households throughout Africa, and it is especially effective for those who live in rural locations near wildlife preservations. Those who are arrested for poaching activities in national parks were significantly poorer than the rest of their communities, and more likely to live closer to the parks and therefore further from local trading centers.

There have been many strategies put in place to attempt to protect wildlife throughout Africa. Strategically placed rangers on the plains, wildlife preservation parks and punishments for violators are some of the measures that have been taken. However, these have proven ineffective; an average of two rangers are killed each week protecting wildlife, and prison sentences for poachers tend to be less than one month due to costs of food and housing for the inmates. The solution, therefore, resides in stopping poaching at its root: poverty.

Studies Demonstrate That Reducing Poverty Eliminates Poaching

A study by Eli Knapp found that poachers who described themselves as living in absolute poverty admitted killing these animals as a food source. These same people also asserted they would quit poaching permanently if they could earn income through other means. Poorer members of a community tend to poach more fiercely and for a longer period of time than those who merely poach for sport. It is important for these people to not feel so poor in relation to their peers in their community. Merely narrowing the income gap between residents will, in turn, decrease the rate of poaching.

Another study analyzes why people in poverty tend to poach and illuminates how reducing poverty eliminates poaching. Rosaleen Duffy argues that poverty results in a person feeling a lack of power, prestige and voice in their life, and poaching may be a means of seeking status in a community. While poaching is still seen as an illegal activity, in most communities it has become a local custom and brings higher prestige to people.

Poaching not only provides these poor communities with material needs of food and money, but also provides a way to meet non-material goals. Cutting poverty at its source will allow these people to increase their status while also preserving wildlife.

Although there have been many studies showing how reducing poverty eliminates poaching, there are still many other factors at play in this illegal activity. Reducing poverty will not completely eliminate all poaching, but it can drastically decrease the deaths of endangered species and other precious wildlife throughout Africa.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Pixabay

The Black MambasThis August, the Black Mambas, a nonprofit anti-poaching unit in South Africa, won the Eco-Warrior Silver Award for its work combating poaching. This is one of many awards it has earned since its establishment in 2003. Not only is this organization making impressive strides to reduce poaching, it is also addressing South Africa’s unequal social climate. The Black Mambas is comprised solely of women and is the first all-female anti-poaching faction in the world.

In South Africa, poverty disproportionately impacts women. Over 13 million people in South Africa live below the poverty line, and most of these individuals are women. In female-headed households, the incidence of poverty increased to 50 percent, while increasing only 33 percent in male-headed households. Women own only one percent of land in South Africa.

The Black Mambas unit presents a unique employment opportunity for South African women. The job is a skilled position, requiring extensive training, which is not often offered to female workers. Balule Nature Reserve, where the Black Mambas operate, is located in Limpopo, one of South Africa’s most impoverished provinces. In Limpopo, even the minimum wage salary given to the 32 Black Mambas, many of whom are mothers, allows them to afford housing and schooling for their children.

The achievements of the Black Mambas unit has made it a source of pride in South Africa. The organization has accomplished significant anti-poaching milestones. This year, only eight rhino kills have been reported within the Black Mambas’ territory, though roughly 3.5 rhinos are poached each day throughout South Africa. Overall, poaching activities have decreased by 76 percent since the Black Mambas came on the scene.

The Black Mambas unit is additionally viewed as a successful public works project that has not only given women a source of employment, but also a voice in their communities. The women teach the importance of their anti-poaching efforts in schools through the Bush Babies Environmental Education Program. They have become role models for young South African girls.

Even beyond the work of the Black Mambas, advances in womens’ status are being made throughout South Africa. In 2014, over 40 percent of South Africa’s cabinet and parliament positions were headed by women. A 2010 census found that more than half of South African women contribute to their country’s GDP. Fifty-six percent of the HIV-infected population in South Africa is female, but between 2010 and 2011, the mother to child transmission rate decreased to 2.7 percent.

While improvements are being made, more can be done to assuage the disparate poverty status of women in South Africa. The Black Mambas is just one group bettering the lives of South African women, while also exhibiting how improvement for women can culminate in improvement for an entire nation.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

According to reports from The Telegraph, Cecil the lion, the most famous creature in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, was killed—rather, poached—by an American hunter.

The Telegraph reveals that Mr. Walter James Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, reportedly paid an estimated $50,000 to shoot and kill the lion. The weapon in question that was used to kill the lion was a bow and arrow. According to reports, Palmer used the bow and arrow in order to hide his tracks.

Palmer allegedly has a hunting felony history, which includes bears, deer, cougars and other various animals, some of which were endangered. Palmer faces charges from both the United States and Zimbabwe. The latter is seeking to extradite the dentist over the killing.

So, along with this tragedy and many others, what can happen when men like Palmer ignore the sanctity of wildlife preserves and poach for profit or “sport”?

Excessive poaching can lead to the degradation of natural habitats and eventually lead to a widespread state of environmental chaos. However, research has shown that it can also influence the lives of people living in poverty-stricken areas where the majority of poaching takes place.

In the past several years, the World Bank has expanded its understanding of how organized crime, corruption, illegal trade and money laundering affect development outcomes. In response, it has stepped up its work on issues such as stolen asset recovery, governance and anti-corruption work.

It has found that because of the lack of economic alternatives for people in the area, the poaching trade seems like the only alternative to provide a means to an end. Yet, what might seem like a lucrative venture can instead be the opposite. Many of these individuals are taken advantage of by the poachers, and they also do it at a heavy risk of prison time. All of these factors can lead to the degradation of their lives.

While fighting poaching by itself may only work to protect the endangered animals of the world, fighting the severe poverty in some of these areas may one day remove the incentive for poaching and the enabling of it, thus helping the impoverished communities, animals and habitats as well.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: World Bank, Borgen Project, IT News Africa, CNN 1, CNN 2, Telegraph, NBC News
Photo: Flickr

At a meeting hosted by the Zoological Society of London, four African leaders vowed their countries would prohibit the sale of ivory for 10 years.

Prince Charles and The Duke of Cambridge also attended the gathering, which sought to “find new ways to protect animals and reduce demand for wildlife products,” according to BBC News.

The leaders of Gabon, Chad, Botswana and Tanzania said, “they will not act on an option to sell from their ivory stockpiles, in an effort to protect elephants.”

The ivory trade involves the poaching of animals such as elephants and rhinos for their ivory tusks. The BBC claims most of the practice takes place in Africa to satisfy the large demand from Asia.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) claims 23 metric tons of ivory, which is equivalent to 2,500 elephants, “was seized in the 13 largest seizures of illegal ivory in 2011.” Moreover, between 2007 and 2012, South Africa has seen a 5,000 percent increase of rhino poaching, “with over 900 rhinos poached in 2013 alone.”

The organization also claims that wildlife crime is worth $19 billion per year and is as dangerous as other black forms of illegal trade.

But why do people join the black market for ivory in the first place? The WWF suggests that people in many countries gained an interest in a “variety of seafoods, leather goods, timbers, medicinal ingredients and textiles.”

However, this only explains the demand side of an ivory transaction. By understanding the context of the African nations involved in the ivory trade, it is clear that people slaughter animals for reasons other than simply trying to be evil.

Thus, the WWF also believes that “extreme poverty means some people see wildlife as valuable barter for trade.” As a result, individuals exploit the corruption and weak judicial systems in their poor homelands that enable the illegal trade of ivory.

In other words, those who are involved in the killings of defenseless rhinos and elephants for their ivory are simply trying to survive. If the international community wishes to see and end to the ivory trade, it needs to provide more aid to African nations struggling with poverty.

– Juan Campos

Sources: BBC, WWF
Photo: All Africa

A group of lions is called a pride. A group of elephants is called a herd. And in the unlikely event of finding a group of rhinoceroses, it would be called a crash. Unfortunately, the probability of finding large groups of these animals in the wild is becoming rare. What is left in place of an expansive Savannah scattered with magnificent beasts, is the narrowing of animal diversity. The foremost perpetrator: poaching.

According to a survey done by the International Union for Conservation (IUCN), as of November 7, 2013 the Western Black rhino is officially extinct. Sadder still is the almost inevitable extinction of the Northern White and Javan rhinos. The IUCN describe them as “making [their] last stand” and “teetering on the brink of extinction.” Unless drastic and prompt measures are taken, it will be difficult to stop the Northern White and Javan from meeting the same end as their Western cousin.

Poaching, ineffective anti-poaching efforts, and a failure of courts to hand down severe sentences to punish poachers may all be blamed for not only the Western’s demise but the fact that 25 per cent of mammals are teetering on the brink of extinction.

Conservationists are formulating a variety of anti-poaching techniques to combat these effects. Most recently, rhino horns are being poisoned and painted pink in South Africa to combat poachers. Persons who consume these horns will fall violently ill.

This technique, developed by Dr. Charles van Niekerk, has been extremely successful. On the Dinokeng nature reserve, where the technique is being used, not a single rhino has been poached. Unfortunately, at least 200 rhinos have been killed elsewhere.

As a back-up measure, the rhinos with this dye also have a microchip inserted into the horn. Incredibly, airport scanners can also detect the dye, even when ground as a powder, making the transport of these horns difficult. Presently, the main problem associated with this process is the difficulty in applying it to all rhinos because of a lack of resources.

The demand for these products is unprecedented. Last year, the market for ivory caused an estimated 96 elephants to be killed daily. This translates to an elephant every 15 minutes. Ground rhino horn is both a delicacy and is frequently used in traditional medicine in the Far East.

The allure of poaching is no mystery. It is a lucrative business.  “The value of a rhino horn in illegal trade is probably 100 times the average earnings of a villager living next to them,” explains Christy Williams, World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) leader on Asian elephants and rhinos.  “It makes poaching a coveted money-making opportunity.”

The Black Market, according to TRAFFIC, is worth about 160 billion dollars. While this can only be an estimate because of the covert nature of this trading, it is a strong indication of the economic worth of poaching.

Africa, presently in the midst of political chaos, is allowing the propagation of this poaching because of local poverty and social disorder. In March of 2013, the Seleka toppled the Central African Republic’s government, and since then have been wrecking havoc on both the people and wildlife. In early April, they went so far as to gun down 26 elephants with automatic weapons, remove the tusks, and vanish.

Organizations such as the WWF have been funding anti-poaching methods. They are building camps where rangers can stay and providing them with the proper equipment to effectively monitor and patrol reservations.

The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable future where villagers and communities can benefit from a relationship with the endangered species surrounding them. However, until this can be done, and unless strict poaching regulations are enforced, it remains dubious.

– Chloe Nevitt
Feature Writer

Sources: Daily Mail1, Daily Mail2, WWF1, WWF2, US News
Photo: The Gaurdian

The Effect Global Poverty has on Wildlife

The debilitating effects of extreme poverty on the citizens of afflicted countries are well-documented. Poverty leads to illness, shame, violence, and overpopulation. Yet poverty is not only detrimental to the human populations of the countries in which it exists, but also the animal populations which coexist alongside it.

It is well known that the earth cannot produce the resources to adequately sustain the current human population, much less at its current rate of growth. We are currently stripping our planet of all its available resources, with little room to maintain ourselves, much less wildlife. The situation is at its most dire in poor, rural villages where people are caught in an uncomfortable co-existence with native wildlife.

Those who still survive by a hunter-gathered lifestyle get food, clothing, and medicine from their surroundings. A research paper by the Department for International Development’s Wildlife and Advisory Group states: “We estimate that wildlife plays a significant role in the lives of up to 150 million poor people. Of the estimated 1.2 billion people who live on less than the equivalent of one dollar a day, about 250 million live in agriculturally marginal areas, and a further 350 million live in or near forests. Wildlife plays some role in the lives of many of these people, and is thought to be a primary livelihood asset in the lives of up to one-eighth of them. Where wildlife is declining or access to wildlife is denied, poor people adapt, but often at a cost to their livelihoods in terms of reduced income, fewer diversification opportunities and increased vulnerability.”

Resources are not the only problem, but also direct competition. Many are often forced into destruction of wildlife, not for a willful hatred of animals themselves or for recreational purposes, but out of sheer necessity. Tigers in India are often killed by rural communities which fear losing irreplaceable livestock. Poaching is a result of a desperate need for money, as ivory and other endangered animal parts often fetch handsome prices. Better education and greater opportunities for the individuals committing these acts would be far more effective than punishing a crime that the current system inevitably forces them to commit.

What this means is that the existence of poverty and conservation of our wildlife are mutually exclusive. One, by necessity, prevents the other. To conserve wildlife is to rob poor communities of the few resources they have, and to not intervene means the inevitable destruction of our environment and the creatures in it.  We have created a system where, if we do not act, we are choosing to destroy either our fellow humans or our fellow creatures. We cannot currently sustain both.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: Wildlife and Poverty Study
Photo: Jukani

Poaching Poverty
Ambassadors from nearly 180 countries convened at the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Conference in Bangkok last week to discuss new ways to stop poaching and other illegal hunting practices. Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa believes that the international community should do more to fight poverty and that addressing poverty will help lessen the frequency of poaching.

The Minister Molewa and many of her colleagues believe that poverty is the main reason that people turn to poaching for their income. Many animal’s pelts or horns can bring in a hefty bit of change that can make all the difference to families living in extreme poverty. Hopefully, as the fight against poverty continues, there will be less poaching around the world. Southern Africa is the region that has been experiencing the greatest problem with illegal hunting and is currently moving forward in their efforts to fight the trafficking of illegal animals and animal products with many Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, where large markets exist for illegal animal products.

So, while fighting poaching by itself may only work to protect the endangered animals of the world, fighting severe poverty may one day remove the incentive for poaching, thus helping the impoverished communities and the animals as well.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Times Live
Photo: WHO ZOO