Two words make me nervous about the preservation of wildlife – poaching crisis. At the risk of sounding terribly alarmist, I think ongoing poaching incidents make the future of wildlife conservation seem bleak.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources defines poaching as the illegal taking of fish or wildlife. One example of an ongoing poaching crisis is that of African rhinoceroses. It is driven by the demand for rhino horns in Asia, which are used for traditional medicine.
Poachers avoid using guns so as not to startle the animals but instead dart them with Etorphine (M99), a powerful tranquilizer (a single drop can kill a human). They then saw off the rhinos’ horns and noses, leaving them to die.
Last year, park rangers in Hanoi, Vietnam found the carcass of the last Javan Rhino with its horn sawed off, marking the official extinction of this species. Furthermore, it is believed that the Western black rhino of South Africa are officially extinct, with two other subspecies close to extinction as well.
Some private game parks have resorted to dehorning their rhinos in response to the poaching crisis, in an attempt to eliminate themselves as a target for poachers. However, this isn’t always a complete solution as the entire horn cannot be cut off. In addition, poachers that dart animals from helicopters might not be able to differentiate between horned and de-horned individuals.
The award winning documentary on the poaching crisis in Malaysia ‘On Borrowed Time’ explains that poaching is similar to any other organized crime; it requires intelligence forces, thorough investigations and a stronghold power to withstand long periods of resistance. Without such efforts, these areas can expect to see a serious depletion (or extinction) of their wildlife in the next 20-50 years. The biggest challenge in many of these areas is a lack of awareness. It is crucial for local communities to understand the value of their natural resources in order to instil a sense of protectiveness and a willingness to become involved in legislative matters that drive conservation efforts.
Oddly enough, the hit single, Four Minutes by Madonna (ft. Timbaland and Justin Timberlake) comes to mind when I think about poaching crises. The sense of urgency, the need to do something immediately, rings true to this issue. While 20-50 years might seem like a long time relative to each of our life spans, in geological time it is a blink of an eye – or four minutes. We need to step up and take serious action against poaching before the clock runs out.
Click Here to see an infographic on rhino poaching.