What are Responses to Poaching around the World?
In medieval Europe, poaching had become illegal and punishable by law. Most peasants did not have the time, weapons, tools, or skills for hunting. Because hunting was reserved for the wealthy and privileged, it made it illegal to buy and sell wild animals until the mid-1800s. As rural poverty was prevalent in the 1700s, people turned to poaching to survive. Commoners protected poachers as an act of rebellion because the food was so scarce. Because of this, authorities could not depend on citizens to turn in poachers so they created traps and spring-guns that would severely injure or kill poachers. In the 1830s, traps and spring guns were deemed illegal. Poaching has changed since the middle ages. (Simon Shadow, 2018)
When it comes to poaching, there are some concepts and theories that should be commonly known to fully understand the research. One thing that must be understood is that each country has different animals that will be poached there. For example, countries in Africa show much more exotic animals being poached than animals found in countries in North America. If these animals are hunted enough, then it can lead to the extinction of their species. There are multiple levels of conservation: extinct (EX), extinct in the wild (EW), critically endangered (CR), endangered (EN), vulnerable (VU), near threatened (NT), least concern (LC), data deficient (DD), and not evaluated (NE). These levels are determined by the current population of the species in comparison to the population past years. This is how the severity of poaching is measured (Evans, 2017).
Poaching today, people kill animals that have a diminishing population. These are typically exotic animals such as rhinos and elephants in Africa. Although the elephants are hunted in Africa, China plays a major role behind the motive for killing them as they have a big ivory trade market. Back on the topic of rhinos, South Africa has been labeled “heart of the battle against poaching” (One Spirit, 2016) because of how bad the poaching has got there. As stated earlier, animals being poached are normally exotic but that is not the case in the US. Black bears have been illegal to hunt in over 30 states.
In this paper, I will research and investigate responses to poaching in different countries around the world. I plan to use a case study approach. The cases that I will be researching are Black bear poaching in the US, Rhino poaching in South Africa, and the influence China has on elephant poaching.
Black Bear Poaching in the US
Black bears may not be the first animal you think of when you think about poaching but they are relevant in the US. In recent years, black bears had made it on the National Geographic list of top ten most endangered bears. These bears were sometimes killed for their gallbladder and bile used for medicinal purposes with liver, heart, and diabetic treatment. They were affected by overhunting and habitat loss which was a devastating combination. The black bear species was down to a conservation level of extinct and it was not getting any better. The US state governments made black bear poaching illegal in 34 states in efforts to replenish the population. “An enormous amount of effort and funding for conservation and management continue to be directed at bears in North America, where their status is relatively favorable,” (McLellan, 2007). With this effort put into solving the problem of black bear poaching, the US government was able to increase the population. There are now an estimated 300,000 black bears in the US. They have moved to a conservation status of least concern (Defenders, 2018).
Rhino Poaching in South Africa
South Africa is currently home to 20,000 rhinos, about 80% of the world’s rhino population. Poaching had always been a threat to the South African rhinos but it was able to be managed until around 2007-2008. This population has been subject to a 9,000% rise in poaching between 2007 and 2014. In just 2014 there were over 1200 rhinos killed. Rhinos were critically endangered and the African government knew that something had to be done. The South African Department of Environmental Affairs made several legislative changes in response to the threats to rhinos. In July 2008, a national moratorium was placed on rhino horn sales to try and prevent domestic sales of rhino horn from entering the illegal international market. From 2014 to 2017 there has been a slight decrease in the yearly death rate of rhinos from 1215 to 1028 but there have not been any significant changes. Rhinoceros still remain with a conservation level of critically endangered. (Shaw, 2018)
How Chinese Ivory Trade Effects Elephant Poaching
Elephant poaching does not happen in China but the Chinese play a major role because of their ivory trade market. Before the ivory ban, China had many state-licensed ivory carving factories and retailers. One factory in Beijing carved more than 1,600 pounds of ivory a year and employed more than 20 artisans in 2011. Chinese president Xi Jinping saw this and the fact that about 30,000 African elephants slaughtered for their ivory each year and decided to make a change. In 2015, Xi Jinping and the current U.S. President Barack Obama agreed that both countries would implement plans to end legal ivory sales. China’s ivory trade has now been illegal for nine months with the plan that was finally implemented on December 31, 2017. Currently, it appears that fewer people are interested in buying ivory. “We’ve been saying for years that the China ban would be a game changer. It appears that it is. We’re seeing positive effects,” (Vertefeuille, 2018). There was a survey of over 2000 Chinese people that shows that 72 percent of the survey takers would not buy ivory. This is a large improvement compared to the last time the survey was taken a year ago with only 50 percent saying they would not buy ivory then.
A group with the thought that poaching is not such a bad thing are trophy hunters. Their opinions were formed because they hunt the animals themselves. They hunt them “legally” by paying for them but they are still killing the same animals that are endangered. “…I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”(Palmer, 2015) This is a statement from Walter Palmer after killing a very popular lion know as Cecil. It shows how he still believes that he is innocent even though he is killing the same animals that are supposed to be protected. In opposition to this perspective, citizens in the town of Hoedspruit, South Africa are completely against poaching. This opinion is formed because they have to live with the poaching happening right near them. Also, they know that if these animals go extinct that they will not come back. These animals are part of what it means to live in South Africa. Because of their efforts to rebel, this town has been labeled the “heart of the battle against poaching” (One Spirit, 2016).
In addition to local perspectives, there are also perspectives on the national level. The South African government is in opposition to poaching because these animals are part of their country and something that sets it apart. They know that if they lose the battle against poaching then they will not stand out as much. One thing that shows their perspective is that they put a moratorium on rhino horn sales. If they wanted to promote poaching they would not put a temporary ban on the buying and selling of rhino horns. Most countries have a similar opinion but the Chinese government was willing to take much more drastic measures. They are completely against poaching. They put a permanent ban on all ivory trade in China. They did this because they wanted to make an attempt to play a role in ending elephant poaching.
The United Nations had a meeting and were in agreement that countries should “adopt effective measures to prevent and counter.” That means that countries should put plans in place to counteract and protect against poaching. This opinion was formed because they know that if the animals become extinct then there is no bringing them back.(Daily Nation, 2015)
I have learned that when animals are being poached, the number of animals killed tends to be low and then there is a sudden increase. This is present in South Africa when in just 7 years the number of rhino deaths per year increased from just 10 deaths to over 1200. Due to my research, my perspective on poaching is that it is not good and should not continue. If animals become extinct then we will not be able to get them back. Poaching decreases the diversity of animal species.
There are multiple possible solutions to eliminate poaching that are listed in this paragraph. Governments should establish local conservancy committees. These committees will work on publicizing the idea of conserving the wildlife. They will create designated wildlife conservation areas. This will make it easier to catch poachers because if anyone enters this land you can stop them. Another step to take would be making the sale of animal products completely illegal. If it is not easy and legal to sell animal products then fewer people will want to do it. Finally governments could encourage tourism activities that do not require hunting.
Poaching is a significant issue because it could possibly lead to the extinction of many different animals. If these solutions are not implemented then more species will become extinct. If the solutions are implemented and they work to end poaching then over time the populations will replenish.


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