Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade

People often assume that pollution and habitat loss are the only things that put animals in danger, but many species are also threatened by individuals who want to exploit them to make significant profits. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the illegal wildlife trade is the second largest threat to wildlife diversity and the greatest threat to many populations. Ecosystems are complicated, and even the loss of one species can wreak havoc on the environment.

It’s also tough to fight illegal wildlife trade since most of the poaching currently takes place in relatively emerging nations, where many people have no alternative sources of income and the governments have difficulty enforcing conservation laws. The vast majority of the market for these products consists of individuals living in developed nations, and reducing demand for such commodities might be of help. This is not an easy task since there are times when people can contribute to the business without ever realizing it, but there are some things and actions that anybody can do to make sure they don’t worsen the problem.

Responsible Pet Ownership

When most people think of the wildlife trade, they think of ivory, tiger skins, and other products that come from large mammals. While that does make up for a large part of the business, smaller animals like birds and fish are also threatened. Exotic birds, like the macaw, are captured in the wild for use in the pet trade. Some species can be bred in captivity to provide an alternative source for domestic animals, but a huge number of birds and fish are kept away from their natural home.

The easiest way to fight against this trade is to be a responsible pet owner. You should never get yourself an animal from anyone other than a reputable dealer, and you should always try to adopt abandoned pets rather than purchasing them.

Check The Source

In many cases, merchants choose to acquire their animals and plant products from illegal sources because it is usually cheaper and easier. It’s easy for consumers to accidentally support illegal wildlife trade every time this happens because not many people bother to do their research before making their purchase. Fortunately, all it takes is a little bit of effort to minimize the risk of that happening. Before you make a purchase, take a moment to look up the vendor. Check to see if they have had past involvement with any part of the illegal trade in wildlife, and look for accreditation from conservation organizations. Most vendors will be perfectly safe, but it’s always best to be sure.

Controlled Hunting

It may seem unintuitive, but there are times when trophy hunting can help save a species and fight against poaching. This is a relatively common practice in Africa, where many nations use it to help fund their conservation programs. The government’s auction off a small number of hunting permits, and use the profits to cover the expenses of running preserves and providing security from poachers.

In addition to funding the conservation efforts, this helps remove some of the demand for illegal animal products. People who have a chance to hunt and take a trophy legally are much less likely to try to do so through illegal avenues. It also gives poachers an opportunity to work as hunting guides, which removes a significant part of their incentive for poaching. The hunts can even be directed towards particular animals that are causing damage to local infrastructure or disrupting the herd, which improves the odds of others to survive and breed and further increase the species. It’s not a social tool, but careful trophy hunting is an important one for governments that want to preserve their populations.

Encouraging Tourism

Most people who are involved in the illegal wildlife trade do it because they cannot think of any other way to make a living. The industry isn’t very safe for people who work in the field, and most of them are happy to take other jobs as they become available. The tourism industry is a great way to make sure that they can do so.

People like to look at exotic animals, and nobody is better at finding them in their natural habitat than the ones who used to poach them. It’s easy for them to use their skills to become safari guides, and many governments are already encouraging tourism to fight against poaching habits. This also turns living animals into an economic asset for people living nearby, which gives them a strong incentive to find ways of protecting the habitats and lands these animals consider their home.

Governments can also levy taxes on the tourists and use the money to fund wildlife preserves, which go on to both protecting wildlife and further encouraging the tourism industry. This is one of the most successful methods because it’s profitable, and anyone can contribute to it by choosing to go on a holiday and participate in one of these programs.

Finding Alternatives

Ultimately, the illegal wildlife trade will exist in some form until demand for its products vanishes. Fortunately, it’s possible to reduce demand by finding alternative products. Faux fur did not eliminate the natural fur industry, but it did a lot to lessen the strain on wild animal populations. Many other commodities have the potential to do the same, and you can contribute to this solution by choosing these alternative products when they become available.

The illegal wildlife trade is a significant threat to the environment, but it’s possible to fight it. You can do your part by contributing to conservation organizations, shopping responsibly, and raise awareness of the problem. If you and enough other people do just that, many species will find themselves with a fighting chance at life once again.