A Problem Of Poaching in Africa

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Poaching is a complicated problem in Africa. Although millions of acres are set aside by the African governments to protect wildlife, poaching, or the illegal hunting of protected animals, continues to be heavy, (The World & Its People, p577).   Poaching has become a huge problem for various reasons and we need to put an end to it. Poachers must be and can be stopped with the right efforts and movements.

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Around the world, many people are making efforts to stop this poaching/trafficking debacle. Such measures include passing laws forbidding the buying and selling of wildlife trafficking, training and equipping troops to outsmart the poachers, training dogs to be able to sniff out a trafficker, strengthening law enforcement, providing protection of endangered animals through conservation land, and educating the public.

Why are people so interested in killing these endangered animals?  Most of the animals are being killed for their tusks and horns as well as other things, like pelt in order to be sold.  African elephants are being killed for their ivory tusks.  Ivory is used to make jewelry, piano keys, billiard balls, eating utensils, religious figurines, and trinkets. Many elephants are being killed when all of these items could be made using other substances. Due to these actions, over 35,000 elephants are killed per year because of some trinkets (AWF). Other animals that are also killed more often than they should be are black rhinos, mountain gorillas, and Grevy’s zebras. In the past 50 years, the black rhinos’ population has dropped over 97% from what it used to be (AWF). The rhino horn is sold to people who believe it has magical medicinal powers that can cure hangovers, cancer, impotence, and fevers. (Library Vol 1, 2008).  Out of all four of those beliefs, none of them have been proven to work. The rhino horn is one of the most expensive items on the planet pound for pound. Currently, a pound of rhino horn is going for 60,000 dollars, compared to gold at 18,000 dollars. (AWF)

As for other endangered animals, only 1,000 mountain gorillas remain across the face of the Earth. Some researchers/officials have noticed a rise in infant gorilla trafficking. On the black market, a baby gorilla skin has been said to be sold for 40,000 dollars. The amount of Grevy’s zebras left in Africa is appalling, only 1,000 are let and is a record low. These zebras are being hunted for their skin so people can flaunt as a jacket or another article of clothing (AWF). Out of those four animals, two of them are critically endangered. Those two are the mountain gorilla and the black rhino (AWF).

Why is it so important to stop the poaching/ trafficking of animals?  As a human race we have a moral obligation to share the earth with the other living species.  If we value human rights, we should value the rights of other living creatures.  We need to help those other species survive, not help them become extinct.  These animals have the right to live freely in their own natural habitat.

Another reason is that the illegal trading of these animal parts is similar to the illegal trading of drugs and weapons.  Crime on wildlife is a large business that is lead by dangerous illegal organizations. Funds from these illegal trades help to finance many international terrorist groups.  It helps to pay for the training of soldiers/ terrorists  and weapons.(OIPA,4 ) These organizations are killing elephants then trading the ivory for over billions of dollars per year. This funding can help terrorists become more advanced. An example of this was an attack at a Kenyan mall in 2013, by Al-Shabaab, who has been proven to trade ivory on the black market (Fieldstadt, 11).

Many poachers are becoming more and more advanced using new weapons, tracking devices, night vision goggles, and many other tools. The poachers are getting smarter in other ways, too. They have found loopholes in hunting laws by hiring tourists to shoot the animals, while the poacher collects the commission.  They are also finding new ways to sell the items to buyers on the black-market.

How can poaching be stopped? Eliminating poaching has proven to be very challenging. Many ideas have been tried, some with more success than others.  Creating laws to stop poaching and trafficking is one way. Using technology to fight the war on paching has proven to be helpful.  Improving security and law enforcement at key locations in the trade chains would help crack down on trafficking.  Educating people on what is happening as a  result of poaching is a start and has proven to be beneficial.

Countries around the world have been attempting to address the problem by passing laws. Both international laws and national laws help to protect endangered species.  Countries have helped by calling for conservation of the habitats of these animals. They have set up refuges, parks, and preserves to help these animals.(Library Vol 1, 2008)  In 1989, CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) put a hold on the international commercial trade of African elephant ivory.(Breyer, 5)  Also, in 1989, President Bush passed the African Elephant Conservation Act (AECA) that banned importing ivory from the African elephant. Since this was passed the market for ivory has collapsed in the United States. (Breyer,5 ) At the time, 70% of illegal ivory was then going to Asia (mostly China & Thailand). This has since changed as of the end of 2017, when China finally banned the buying and selling of ivory.  For the first time China destroyed its ivory stocks, sending the world a message that ivory trading would not be tolerated. (Dodo) It also sent the message to its people that the elephants’ lives were more important than the Chinese culture of ivory carving.  Laws such as these has drastically reduced illegal trading and helped the elephant population increase.

Training troops to stop the poaching in Africa is a necessity. Due to the advanced technology that poachers have established, many high impact weapons are being dealt out to these poachers, making them more and more difficult to stop. The poachers are using Ak-47’s, grenade launchers, and even night vision goggle.  Enforcing the law is challenging because these animals live in remote area which make it difficult to find poachers.  Preparing troops to stay one step ahead of the poachers is essential two important reasons – 1) stopping the killing of the animals and 2) keeping themselves safe.  Matching the weaponry of these people vital. Arming them with drone technology that uses night vision and thermal imaging is a huge help.  This allows the troops to keep better track of how the animals are moving as well as if there are poachers in specific hard to reach areas.  Sending wildlife rangers that are trained and prepared to find poachers is a must.

Another new, high-tech alarm system helps rangers in South Africa stop poachers from killing rhinos, elephants, and other wildlife. This alarm system uses a combination of things, like WiFi, thermal cameras, scanners, and sensors, to make it a lot easier to catch the predator first. Bruce Watson says Our intention is to eradicate all forms of poaching throughout Africa, India, and Asiaand the ocean.(Neme, 24) The main goal of this new electronic device is to wipe poaching off the face of the earth. Experiments with this product have gone well, it is safe to say that this new technology will be a game changer for the good guys.

Having trained sniffer dogs that will be able to sniff out the illegal substance that was taken from a carcass will be a huge help. These sniffer dogs would sit at major transportation sites, like an airport, and just wait for a criminal to pounce on and stop them in their tracks.

Utilize the DNA of tusks that have been seized to help figure out the geographic origins to help locate where hot spots for poaching in Africa are.  This will help show law enforcement where to go to shut down ivory trade. (Nuwer,51 ) Adding support at these various checkpoints throughout the known illegal trade routes will  catch these criminal. Along with that, is making sure law enforcement is strong and honest.  Guards who are suspected of taking bribes needs to be removed.  Weak or corrupt authorities who can be easily threatened or bribed should not be allowed to hold such positions.  Having weak enforcement of poaching laws does not help the efforts of abolishing poaching.

Another way to stop poachers/traffickers in their footsteps is by conserving the land around these affected animals. Many people have taken steps to make this an easier target to accomplish. A major goal of the African Wildlife Foundation is to put GPS trackers onto the species and track their movements so they could preserve the land that these animals walk on, therefore the selected animals will have tranquil living space and be able to carry out the natural processes of life. This way the people that live very close to these animals can protect them by all means and have an incentive. Conserving the land will help animals stay safe because the land that they wonder and walk around on will then be protected and not allow these poachers to have easy access to kill these animals. With the land as national parks and such, animals will be able to roam as much as they want and not have to worry about getting killed. These animals also help develop a better ecosystem for the planet. Elephants eat shrubs or grass to prevent it from overgrowing, and their waste fertilizes soil.

Lastly, a major step that needs to be taken to stop poaching is educating the public. If the everyday human is knowledgeable about this topic, then it will be easier for poaching to be stopped. For instance, if no one bought ivory or used it anymore, the need for it would go away, those animals would no longer be in danger. People could also get involved and donate money to the programs that help these animals in danger. The African Wildlife Foundation talked about the measures they have taken to make people understand the situation, Outside the continent, we have launched successful public awareness campaigns in China and Vietnam informing consumers about the brutal truths behind the global wildlife trade. We also advocate for governments and protection agencies to ban international trade in wildlife parts like ivory and introduce stiffer penalties for criminals, (AWF). Another resource that helps spread the word about animal poaching/ trafficking is Roots & Shoots.  It is an organization that Jane Goodall started to help promote understanding of the environment in youth and create future leaders that show compassion towards wildlife.

Poaching in Africa can be stopped with the important steps that need to be taken.   The most effective way would be if everyone around the world need to boycott ivory products. We can do this by educating people about the senseless, devastating loss of animals.  If that happened, it would end the need for illegal killing of these innocent animals. Also, if countries would work with each other to tackle this problem that spans across various countries we would have a better shot.  Trained rangers and dogs will help the poachers be stopped. The newly developed GPS technology can make it easier to track both the animals and the poachers.  Lastly, as long as the public cares enough to conserve the land that these animals are on, the government trains people to protect it, and if the people across the globe are aware, poaching will be stopped. Overall, it is going to take a combination of all of these ideas to end poaching as we know it today, but it can be done!

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