By Stephanie Pedersen
Poaching, especially in parts of the developing world, is as serious and prevalent an issue today as it was only twenty years ago. Despite steps to curb the poaching of exotic and endangered species, such as the 1990 CITES-led international ban on ivory, many countries are still faced with a growing prevalence of the issue within their national parks and reserves. This was recently exemplified by the law passed this month in Western India that allows forest guards to shoot and kill suspected poachers on site and not face any criminal charges or human rights violations.
Poaching is not strictly defined as the illegal culling of endangered or protected species. Poaching also includes the shooting, trapping, or taking of game or fish from private property or from a place where such practices are specifically reserved or forbidden. Taken in this context, as hunting out of season or without a permit is also considered poaching, many hunters are often unaware of the legal designation of their activity.
There are three motivations for poaching; food, cultural and economic. When food is scarce, traditional hunters have been known to poach protected species in order to eat. During the initial post-Soviet era in Russia, poaching was widespread due to the starvation and environmental cutbacks that occurred in many rural areas of the country. The cutbacks allowed criminal organizations to operate freely and poach tiger, bear and deer both as a source of food, and to be sold on the black market.
Now, poaching occurs primarily for economic and cultural reasons. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports that illegal wildlife trade is driven by high profit margins. The two motivators often intersect as many animals are poached for economic reasons that are driven by cultural demand. For example, India’s declining tiger population is influenced by the fact that in some Asian countries, such as China, consumption of tiger penis is believed to increase virility. The WWF reports that an increase in demand for rhinoceros horn on the black market is due to a belief held by some in Vietnam that rhino horn can cure cancer. More....