by Betsy Seeton
Poachers are to blame for killing and/or caging exotic animals, but the buyers -- the people who are creating the demand -- are equally to blame. If you're buying medicinal products that, for example, contain illegal tiger parts, Yak blood or rhino and elephant horns, just to name a few, you're as much a part of why so many animals face extinction as the poachers are. If the demand for such things as ivory, zebra and tiger fur, or the desire to own an exotic animal were gone, it would bring an end to the supply side of things meaning poachers wouldn't have a reason to kill or confiscate an animal. But the demand is high and the money is better than dealing drugs.
Other problems hamper bringing an end to animal trafficking with the poor to non existent laws and severe lack of follow through after apprehending poachers. If law enforcement doesn't do its job, and the courts don't do theirs, the offenders walk and get right back to the business of trafficking.
As Tracy McVeigh reports from the UK, Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo) has almost 10% of the world’s tropical forest and an extraordinary biodiversity that constantly multiplies with three new species being discovered there on average every month. It is the only home of some of the world’s most endangered mammals: the Bornean pygmy elephant, clouded leopard, sun bear and orangutan. All of them face extinction if the ancient forest is destroyed.
But there are other species, such as the wild banteng, pangolins, crocodiles, tigers, elephants and rhinos, that are less threatened by habitat loss than they are hunting, according to Erik Meijaard, who reported the following in the Jakarta Globe:
Hunting is happening inside and outside protected areas and enforcement of anti-hunting laws is nearly nonexistent. Only the anti-poaching teams for tiger and rhino protection seem to have had some success in catching poachers and getting them prosecuted. The rest of the hunting goes on largely unnoticed, uncontrolled and unpunished.
Indonesia does have laws against killing, trading or otherwise harming protected species, but apart from a handful of cases in which tiger and rhino poachers were jailed, no one has ever been effectively prosecuted for illegally killing protected wildlife in Indonesia.
Unfortunately most cases of wildlife crime end in acquittal either because the procedures are not followed meticulously or the documents are riddled with loopholes.
Cases of wildlife smuggling should be treated like those in narcotics crime and punishment based on the quantum of seizures to help curb smuggling.
It is time to fight wildlife crime effectively, and collective actions must be taken to stop the key drivers that are bringing tigers and other endangered species to the brink of extinction: poaching, smuggling and illegal trade.