The Business of Wildlife
By Balawan Joshua Mawrie
Nature has given a bountiful number of gifts to us and one of them is in the form of wildlife. For many years magnificent beasts have roamed the earth's oceans and land and yet at the turn of the century, man's greed has led to the disappearance of many species.
One of the major threat to biodiversity today is the illegal poaching and harvesting of endangered plants and animals across the world to feed the insatiable demand of the black market. This year's World Environment Day theme, "Zero Tolerance For The Illegal Wildlife Trade", addresses this pressing issue.
The illegal dealing of wildlife resources is big business. Criminal syndicates and dangerous international networks are involved in trafficking wildlife and this unlawful industry is estimated to be worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The demand for exotic pets, pelts, food, ivory and superstitious healing powers of animal parts has fuelled the illegal trade making it highly profitable for those involved. Sadly, it is the the fauna and flora which receives the sour end of the bargain.
As per WWF UK (www.wwf.org.uk) findings, 1175 rhinos were killed in 2015 by poachers for their horns in South Africa, 30,000 African elephants were illegally hunted down for their ivory in 2012 alone and between the year 2000 and 2014, body parts from at least 1590 tigers were seized in Asia. Apart for these famed examples, there are many other highly endangered species of plants and animals that are being thieved away into extinction.
India as a country has also fallen prey to this malicious industry. Although the demand within the country itself is low but the global demand for Indian wildlife is very high. WWF India (www.wwf.org.india) has reported a number of products that are being illegally traded and they include items like mongoose hair, body parts of tigers and leopards, elephant tusk, snake skin, rhino horns, shahtoosh shawl, turtle shells, deer antlers, a number of birds, medicinal plants, timber etc. Although under the protection of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, India's wildlife is still reeling under the threat of the illegal trade. Inadequate implementation of laws and overall ignorance has further enhanced the difficulty in conservation of wildlife.
The North Eastern region of India is one of the most diverse regions in the world when it comes to richness in biodiversity and it also exhibits high endemism. However it does not provide a haven for wildlife from traffickers. One such episode was reported by The Hindu on 15th November 2013 on the illegal trafficking of Tokay geckos from the region at the tune of 25 lakhs to a crore rupees per animal. Another incident was the seizure of 123 kilograms of pangolin scales in Mizoram with an estimated worth of 19.68 lakhs as published by Business Standard on the 6th of May 2016.
Other animals that are found in the region such as tigers, elephants, the greater one horned rhinos, clouded leopards, red pandas etc. also face a constant threat from poachers. It may be suggested that illicit hunting of animals is rampant in the North Eastern States due to their proximity to the international borders with China, Mayanmar and Bangladesh which may provide a gate way to the global illicit market.
Threat to biodiversity from illegal trade is increasing at an alarming rate. If this is not curbed or stopped it may drive a number of animal and plant species into extinction from the wild. There are a number of global, national and regional efforts being made that are combating for the betterment of wildlife, but more needs to be done. Governments should make an honest attempt on framing and also implementing policies for the protection of nature.
Organisations for wildlife should continue their valiant efforts and boost their endeavours in conservation activities. In the fight against the illegal wildlife trade, we as individuals are the most important players because as the famous saying goes, "When the buying stops, the killing can too".
(The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)