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  • Writer's pictureRichard

Poaching Should be Deadly – for the Human

You may have seen the appalling news recently of up to 90 elephants killed by poachers for their tusks in Botswana last week (see BBC, 2018; Fox News, 2018; Newser, 2018; AWF [1], 2018). Some observers report it as the largest mass slaughter of elephants seen in Africa to date (LabRoots, 2018). The country has been as a safe haven for these gentle giants – until now. Notably, the incident coincides with the partial disarmament of Wildlife Department officers by the government; the removal of some of the most powerful, military-style weapons at their disposal. Though suspect, it must be said that any claims of corruption or collusion with these contemptible wildlife product traders is conjecture at this point.

Image Credit: Elephants without Borders, via BBC (2018).

A disproportionate number of the animals killed were older bull elephants, targeted for their tusks, to be traded on the international illicit wildlife products market. The trade in wildlife trade ranks among drugs and arms as the top areas of international crime (The Guardian, 2013). The syndicates are increasingly sophisticated and have significant financial resources (AWF [2], 2018). China is the greatest source of demand for ivory, often seen as a way to project affluence and status (National Geographic [1][2], 2018). As a result of the demand, a 2015 “...census estimated a third of Africa's elephants had been killed in the last decade and 60% of Tanzania's elephants had been lost in five years.” (BBC, 2018)

Rhino victim of poaching
Rhino horn is made up of keratin like our nails and hair, thus having no medicinal value, contrary to "traditional" beliefs

How very disheartening. Human beings are indeed the world’s most fearsome predator – and, unlike in the natural world, our reasons are usually asinine and pretentious. Poaching is so infuriating, I would personally like to see the international community fund a permanent cross-border force, highly trained, supremely equipped, and paid accordingly. Mission: poachers are hunted and shot on sight. To become a poacher is to sign your own death warrant. I recognize that, if detained, they may have useful information, however I would submit that (a) those on the “front lines” are kept on a need-to-know-basis and (b), the result of having such ruthless enforcement would have a far greater impact. We need a root-and-branch, supply- and demand-side approach.

Achievable? Maybe not. But we should try – tackling this issue head on, before it’s too late.




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