Imagine yourself on an African safari, where various exotic animals walk freely across the landscape. As you are looking at all the creatures, you come across a rhino that catches your eye. This rhino sticks out to you from the rest of the animals due to its energetic personality. The next day, you come back to find that the rhino is gone. One of the wildlife professionals informs you that the rhino has been poached and killed for its horns. Rhinos are just one of the animals that are poached and killed for their body parts. Hi, my name is Rahil Patel, and I will be talking about animal poaching.
To understand the gravity of the situation, we must understand what animal poaching is; it is killing an animal illegally. Animal poaching is the process of killing an animal illegally. The primary reason for this is because the animal possesses something of great value such as horns, tusks, etc. Poaching is a major existential threat to numerous wild animals worldwide and is a crucial contributor to biodiversity loss. Poaching is a serious problem, especially in Africa. This gruesome process threatens some of the most well-known animals in the world driving some to the verge of extinction. The two animals this article focuses on are the African elephant and the rhino and the detrimental effects of poaching on their populations.
Why are rhinos and elephants poached in the first place?
Elephants are primarily poached for ivory, and rhinos are poached for their horns. In modern society, ivory is used in the manufacture of electrical appliances, including specialized electrical equipment for airplanes and radar, while also being used to manufacture piano and organ keys, billiard balls, handles, and minor objects of decorative value. The most common reason for the poaching of rhinos is to meet the high demand for their horns in Asian countries. The horn is predominantly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine but has also become a symbol of wealth and prosperity. This Chinese medicine is used to treat fevers, rheumatism, gout, and other disorders (“Elephants”)
How are the populations of these animals changing?
The drastic decrease in the populations of both of these animals has been due to poaching.
As for the elephant population, in 1930, as many as 10 million wild elephants roamed huge swaths of the African continent (“The Status of African Elephants”). However, decades of poaching and conflict have since decreased African elephant populations. In 2016, experts estimated that Africa’s elephant population had dropped by 111,000 elephants in a decade (“The Status of African Elephants”). Today, there are only 415,000 elephants across Africa. The decline has been just as drastic for rhinos; at the beginning of the 20th century, 500,000 rhinos roamed Africa and Asia. By 1970, rhino numbers dropped to 70,000, and today, around 27,000 rhinos remain in the wild (“Rhino”) The constant need for poaching these animals has caused some rhino species to completely be extinct, such as the western black rhinos and the western white rhinos while elephant species, such as the African bush elephant, Asian elephants, and African forest elephants are listed as critically endangered.
How is the environment affected by the poaching of elephants and rhinos?
As a consequence of animal poaching, there are grave effects on the environment as well. The impact of poaching of elephants goes far beyond individual deaths and can span decades after the actual killings occur. They include disruption of social organization, reduction of reproductive output, and increases in stress hormones (“The Long Term Effects of Poaching on Forest Elephants”). All of these problems were related to the poaching of old matriarchs, which refers to the oldest adult female elephants. On the other hand, the negative effects of the poaching of rhinos can lead to loss of biodiversity and the collapse of food chains (“African Rhinos”). It harms ecosystems, and tourism/jobs can be lost, which, in turn, hurts global economies.
What are its effects on tourist attractions?
One of the many outcomes of the poaching of elephants and rhinos is how they are affecting tourist attractions. In Africa, elephant and rhino poaching is costing them millions of dollars, as 20,000 elephants are poached each year, while fewer than 400 rhinos were poached last year (“Elephant poaching is losing Africa millions of tourist dollars”). Still, this decrease in population for both of these animals is causing Africa to lose a pretty hefty amount of tourists. It is genuinely heartbreaking how these animals were once able to roam their habitat happily and freely. But now, they have to deal with horrible poachers who want to take away their lives for something that is completely unnecessary.
How can we help to prevent this from happening?
The illegal wildlife trade is one of the world’s most thriving businesses, making an estimated $10 to 20 billion dollars annually(Kessler). Rhinos are not the only animals affected. More than 60 percent of Africa’s elephant population was poached within the last 12 years. However, there are ways that we can help prevent this method of hunting without harming the animals even more:
Ask before you buy
- If you’re unsure where something like jewelry or clothing comes from, simply ask. Ask the vendor what it’s made of, where it’s from, and if its country of origin allows its sale (Kessler).
Stick to certified products
- Products you may not think, like furniture and paper, can also contribute to unsafe wildlife practices. Always check before you buy (Kessler).
Petition your local government to stop or restrict the legal ivory trade
- In 2016, the U.S. placed new, strict regulations on the domestic ivory trade, restricting the sale of ivory across state lines and limiting ivory trophy imports to two per year, per hunter. Illegal ivory is often sold. California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington are the only states with ivory bans in addition to the federal laws. Contact your local lawmakers to encourage them to put additional pressure on both the legal and illegal ivory trade (Kessler).
Report any illegal wildlife trade
- Nowadays, with the internet, anything is possible. If you see any illegal wildlife trade, do not be hesitant to report it (Kessler).)
Increasing power and benefits to local communities will enable local communities to acquire full responsibility for anti-poaching operations to help better protect the animals and the environment around them. Ultimately, the plan to reduce poaching is to spread the word around to others that are passionate about saving the animals. GET INVOLVED TODAY!
- “The Status of African Elephants.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, Dec. 2018, www.worldwildlife.org/magazine/issues/winter-2018/articles/the-status-of-african-elephants.
- Estrada, Orietta C. “The Devastating Effects of Wildlife Poaching.” One Green Planet, One Green Planet, 30 Apr. 2021, www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/the-devastating-effects-of-wildlife-poaching/.
- Kessler, Robert. “7 Ways You Can Help Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade.” EcoHealth Alliance, 1 Feb. 2019, www.ecohealthalliance.org/2017/10/7-ways-you-can-help-stop-the-illegal-wildlife-trade.
- IAPF Organization. “Why Do People Poach Elephants?” International Anti-Poaching Foundation, IAPF, 4 Feb. 2021, www.iapf.org/news/elephants.
- University of Washington. “Effects of Poaching on African Elephants.” Center for Conservation Biology, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania and Tarangire Elephant Project This Work Was Part of the Doctoral Dissertation of Kathleen Gobush, Ph.D. Conservation Biology., conservationbiology.uw.edu/research-programs/effects-of-poaching-on-african-elephants/
[By Rahil Patel, is Empower And Help Student Ambassador 2021 from New Jersey]