Poachers kill or capture animals to sell locally, or for the global wildlife trade, which is a major black-market industry that has increased alongside wealth in Asia, and the advent of e-commerce and social media websites, which facilitates the illegal trading.
The following is a list of the horrifying reasons animals are poached, and why wildlife populations are decreasing, and certain species of wildlife are on the verge of becoming extinct.
Elephant - Tusks
Ivory is illegally sold worldwide due to its limited supply, its value as a carving material, and its status as a rare luxury item. Ivory only comes from elephants. Many other animals also produce ivory, though it is not as soft, and the quantity per specimen is not as large as from an elephant. The largest adults with the biggest tusks are hunted, which puts the matriarchs of the family at the greatest risk. Studies have shown that long-term consequences of elephant poaching have changed little over time. Physiological measures of stress and reproduction are consistent with the disruptive nature of poaching. In areas where poaching is high, female elephants in their reproductive prime have fewer young calves. Up to 30,000 African elephants die each year as a result of the ivory trade. They are now an endangered and protected species.
Bear Bile - Gall Bladders
Bears are poached for specific organs, for their skin, meat, claws, and other trophies. Bear bile farming is a system designed to cruelly and tortuously extract bile from bears. The bears are confined to cramped cages where they are starved and dehydrated, developing diseases and malignant tumors that ultimately kill them. The invasive, painful extraction procedures are performed by unlicensed, individuals causing suffering, severe pain and infection. On these farms, bears are seen as production units-only as useful as the bile they produce. Bears who do not produce enough bile are simply left to die. Bear bile is used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.
While bear products are regulated in Japan and China, China still produces and exports pharmaceutical products to Southeast Asia. China remains an entry-point for trafficked wildlife parts, supplying folk medicine practitioners of Southeast Asia.
In rural Pakistan, defenseless bears are captured and forced to fight battle-trained dogs for sport and entertainment. They are also forced to perform on the streets for money under the threat of violence.
Big Horned Sheep - Antlers
The popularity of antlers as rustic decor threatens deer and elk in the Pacific Northwest. Currently, in Montana, state law bars the public from picking up big horned sheep antlers in the wild, whether or not the cause of death was natural or from being hunted. In fact, a $30,000 fine was imposed for collecting horns illegally. Poaching big horn antlers serve to feed big egos; hunting for the thrill of it. Organized rings of poachers and unlicensed guides chase animals with the biggest antlers and trade them on internet auction sites or submit pictures to hunting magazines featuring big kills.
Tiger - Organs
Highly regarded in Eastern medicine, every part of the tiger from nose to tail, as well as eyes, whiskers, brains, flesh, blood, organs and more, are sold for up to $20,000 on the black market. In Asia, tigers are poached to supply underground markets with organs, pelts, and bones. The bones are the most highly prized in Chinese medicine, a favored treatment for rheumatism and arthritis. Tiger parts are purported to cure epilepsy, baldness, toothaches, joint pain and boils to ulcers, nightmares, fevers, and headaches. They are used to treat rat bites and laziness and, similar to other folk remedies, used to prevent possession by evil powers. Tiger penises are considered an aphrodisiac. It is believed that by ingesting the cat, its powers will be absorbed.
Tiger and lion cubs are taken from their mothers for selfies with tourists willing to pay top dollar for a shot with these endangered species.
Pangolin - Scales and Meat
The most illegally trafficked mammal in the world, Pangolins are poached for the scales, which protect them against predators in the wild. The scales are used in traditional Asian medicine, particularly in China and Vietnam. They are believed to have curative properties and are used as decorations for rituals and in jewelry. Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in some countries.
Jaguar - Body Parts
Highly illegal to hunt, apex predators, Surinam jaguars, are an endangered and protected species. They are poached for their teeth, claws, skin, and other body parts, which are sold as trophies. The teeth and claws are used to make jewelry. Jaguar paste, which is made from boiling the carcass in large pans for 5 days, skimming off the top and letting it simmer an additional 2 days. The paste is believed to treat arthritis, increase vitality and expel toxins from the body. There are reports that Surinam jaguar products are used as a substitute for tiger parts.
Black Rhino - Horns
Due to intense poaching, rhinos are potentially becoming extinct. In Asia, particularly Vietnam and China, there is a high demand for black rhino horns, which have been used in Chinese folk remedies for over 2000 years. It was assumed to cure snake-bites, hallucination, typhoid, headaches, vomiting, food-poisoning and devil possession. Black rhino horns are also seen as a status symbol representing wealth and prosperity.
Giraffe - Tails
A rare subspecies of giraffe in Central Africa are being killed for their tails, which are considered a status symbol in some communities. They are used as a dowry, in good luck bracelets and as thread for sewing or stringing beads. Their long black hairs are turned into fly whisks. In neighboring impoverished villages, giraffes are targeted for their hide, meat and other body parts.
Sea Turtle - Meat and Shells
Having survived for millions of years, sea turtles are gradually becoming extinct due to pollution, fisheries bycatch and poaching. They are unsustainably harvested for their meat and eggs, which are a source of income around the world. Their shells are used for handicrafts and jewelry. In South America and Asia, sea turtle eggs are harvested for use in folk medicine.
Gorilla - Meat, Hands and Feet
Gorillas are poached for various reasons. Endangered mountain gorillas of Africa have suffered devastating lethal attacks against them in the 20th century. Originally, gorillas were hunted and killed for the bushmeat trade, in order to supply the high demand for meat in urban communities, and also as a source of food for them and their families. Gorilla meat is considered a prestigious delicacy among the wealthy. In traditional medicine, gorilla body parts are used medicinally, and for their supposed magical charms. They continue to be killed for their hands and feet, which are sold to collectors. While gorillas contribute to a small proportion of animals killed in the bushmeat trade, they are easy targets for hunters and they are favored because of the weight of saleable meet.
Infant gorillas are abducted for sale to zoos and researchers, which often results in the killing of adult gorillas in the process because adults members of a gorilla group will fight to the death to protect their young.
What Can We Do?
Raising awareness of alternatives to bile and other animal parts used in medicine, which are readily available in herbal and synthetic form are affordable and effective is the first step to eradicating the unnecessary poaching of endangered species. For example, Pangolin Scales and Rhino horns are made up of Keratin, the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails, which are not scientifically proven to have any medicinal value.
Despite, the fact that wildlife farming has grown as an economic reality, and as a sustainable alternative to the exploitation of wildlife resources, it is an idea with flaws and challenges.
Wildlife farming is promoted as a means to provide alternative protein sources to wean communities off of bushmeat, provide food to a starving world, and provide rural communities with a boost in income, which are some of the primary reasons for illegal poaching.
Heath experts view this captive breeding as a means to contain and prevent wildlife diseases from spreading to human populations.
Conservationists believe wildlife farming will prevent the extinction of species by regulating trade, ranching, and which animals are farmed. Some conservationists disagree, claiming wildlife farming does not benefit species conservation because it is difficult to breed wild species in captivity. Additionally, it is considered a threat to animal welfare because it increases illegal poaching.
The most glaring issue regarding illegal wildlife poaching and wildlife farming is that the money that is offered to poach, capture and contain animal wildlife either for farming or the black-market trade is life-changing for poor people in their communities. However, this form of income supplication is unsustainable when wildlife populations decrease and will eventually become extinct as a result of poaching.
Illegal poaching threatens the survival of species of wildlife, consequently, the risk of living on a planet without wildlife will have devastating consequences to the environment and ecosystems.
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