The Illegal Wildlife Trade As A Broader Picture
The illegal wildlife trade is a scourge on the biodiversity of the planet. Not only does it diminish, and in some cases, drive entire animal species into extinction, but it also has a devastating effect on the surrounding environment, somewhat difficult for us to understand. Animals have developed in their native habitat for countless millennia, and have done so in such a way as to be an integral part of it, in perfect balance with other animals, plants, and geographical features. Remove one element, or add another from that equation, and the whole thing changes. This is basically, Evolution 101.
Humans, for better or worse, are the most successful invasive species in the world. With only a few exceptions, people were able to go pretty much everywhere on the face of the planet, call that place home, and then begin to change it – sometimes beyond repair and with devastating results.
We are currently going through one of the biggest mass-extinctions in the planet’s entire 4.5 billion years. Known as the Anthropocene extinction, this systematic extermination of animal life has begun a long time ago, basically when a group of humans made their way to a new place and then started to kill off the top predators, the big game, and so on. But only in more recent decades, with the advent of industrialisation and better technology, did we manage to kick start this process to an unprecedented degree. There have been other mass extinctions on Earth throughout its long history, but none have happened as fast as it does today.
The Illegal Wildlife Trade
Animals are disappearing left and right for various reasons, one of which being the loss of habitat. The roughly 75,000 human settlements make up about 3 percent of the land surface area, but the way they are placed across the globe, and the amount of extra land used for agriculture, roads and other forms of infrastructure – leave very little space for animals to thrive in. Not to mention the fact that we’re taking over more and more of that land with each passing day.
But besides that, there’s the illegal wildlife trade we have to deal with. Poaching and overfishing are also major threats our cousins in the animal kingdom are faced with. But while it’s easy to blame the poachers and the fishermen themselves for what’s happening, we oftentimes forget that these businesses are driven by the economic principles of supply and demand – just like everything else. We might blame them for the disappearance of many of the iconic species of animals from around the world, but we have to remember that they are just at the bottom of their respective, so-called, food chain.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is at the forefront of a global campaign to stop wildlife crime and they’ve devised some posters to showcase this $10 billion illegal industry in its entirety. By looking at these posters we can more easily see what happens with the ivory, the shark fins, or tiger hides after the animals themselves are killed. This illegal wildlife trade doesn’t start and stop with the poachers themselves but fuels entire industries that reach all the way to us here reading this. And also, by looking at these posters, we can see that it might just be easier to tackle the illegal wildlife trade from the top of the pyramid, rather than the bottom – cut the demand and the supply will no longer be financially viable.
Easier said than done, right? Well, yes and no. Making something illegal drives the market underground and out of the reach of regulation. But by socially shaming those who take part in it – regardless of their position in these pyramids, will bear far better results than the alternative.