By Grace Ge Gabriel
Buried in a document from a recently concluded international workshop on tiger conservation and combatting wildlife crime held in Kunming, China, was the term, “illicit demand”. The “Kunming Consensus” recommends countries should “combat illegal wildlife trade and eliminate illicit demand for wildlife products”.
While the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) supports the pledge for effective enforcement and demand elimination, we are concerned, however, that eliminating all demand versus eliminating illicit demand could mean the difference between life and death for tigers, elephants and rhinos.
Killing elephants for their ivory, slaughtering tigers for their pelts and bone and hacking the horns off rhinos to supply the market demand have reached epidemic proportions in recent years.
The bloody trail of slaughter leads us to Asia, particularly China and Vietnam, where the demand for elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger pelts have sky-rocketed, propelled by the fast-growing economy, the increase in consuming power, and the availability and accessibility of these products in the marketplace.
Technically these endangered species are protected by international and domestic laws which banned the trade of their parts and derivatives. However, loopholes and exceptions are created, sometimes purposefully, to allow the trade of certain types of products and in certain circumstances.
The existence of parallel legal and illegal markets makes it very difficult for a consumer to distinguish whether a wildlife product sold in the market is legal or illegal. More....