NEW YORK (July 27, 2011) A paper by noted WCS conservationist Elizabeth Bennett says that an immense, increasingly sophisticated illegal trade in wildlife parts conducted by organized crime, coupled with antiquated enforcement methods, are decimating the world's most beloved species including rhinos, tigers, and elephants on a scale never before seen.
The paper, published June 7 on the online issue of the journal Oryx, says that much of the trade is driven by wealthy East Asian markets that have a seemingly insatiable appetite for wildlife parts.
According to the paper, organized crime syndicates using sophisticated smuggling operations have penetrated even previously secure wildlife populations. Some of the elaborate methods include: hidden compartments in shipping containers; rapidly changing of smuggling routes; and the use of e-commerce whose locations are difficult to detect.
"We are failing to conserve some of the world's most beloved and charismatic species," said Bennett, who began her career in conservation more than 25 years ago in Asia. "We are rapidly losing big, spectacular animals to an entirely new type of trade driven by criminalized syndicates. It is deeply alarming, and the world is not yet taking it seriously. When these criminal networks wipe out wildlife, conservation loses, and local people lose the wildlife on which their livelihoods often depend."
For example, South Africa lost almost 230 rhinoceroses to poaching from January to October, 2010; and less than 3,500 tigers roam in the wild, occupying less than 7 percent of their historic range.
Bennett says an immediate short-term solution to stave off local extinction of wildlife is through enforcement of wildlife laws, and to bring to bear a variety of resources to supersede those of the criminal organizations involved. This would include everything from a sharp increase in the nu
|Contact: Stephen Sautner|
Wildlife Conservation Society