Currently, some 5,200 animal species are in danger of extinction: 34% of fish, 25% of amphibians and mammals, 20% of reptiles and 11% of birds are in a borderline situation according to data offered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN. Both poaching and the illicit trade in live animals contribute to this, which each year move between 10,000 and 20,000 million euros a year, figures comparable to drug or arms trafficking, but much less persecuted than these. The data provided by the Wildlife World Foundation, WWF, is as sad as it is worrying: around 100 tigers, 20,000 elephants, more than 1,000 rhinos are killed every year to traffic their bones, their skin, their tusks or their horns. To this list must be added other species such as gorillas, small apes, sharks, rays or precious woods, and 1.5 million live birds and 440,000 tons of medicinal plants are illegally traded. The problem is that there is an increasingly strong and growing demand.
The price of superstition
Some of these species are attributed almost magical properties, which have nothing to do with reality. Traditional medicine makes the Asian market, especially in China and Vietnam, activate a demand that pays large amounts of money, although its cost is actually catastrophic. Thus, for example, it is believed that rhinoceros horn has aphrodisiac properties, in addition to curing diseases such as cancer or improving the symptoms of others such as AIDS. Nothing could be further from the truth, since the horn of this imposing and peaceful animal is composed of a substance similar to keratin. Something that reaches between 60,000 and 80,000 dollars per kilo on the black market. A lucrative crime. The coronavirus health crisis gave this magnificent animal some breathing space in 2020 as poaching fell 53% in South Africa due to mobility restrictions. Poachers went from killing 316 specimens in 2019 to 166 in 2020. A similar situation is suffered by the pangolin that became famous at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The reason? It was suspected of being a source of the coronavirus due to the consumption of its scales, blood or meat, to which numerous healing and aphrodisiac properties are also attributed. In addition, this curious animal is also hunted to keep as a pet.
For all these reasons, this small mammal supports 20% of the international wildlife traffic, about 100,000 specimens a year, which places its eight species on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN ). Alongside the superstitious traditions, there is another threat to exotic animals: wet markets. These spaces where live animals are sold for human consumption pose a risk to public health and encourage the illegal sale of wildlife.
According to the Wildlife World Foundation, around 100 tigers, 20,000 elephants, more than 1,000 rhinos are killed every year to traffic their bones, their skin, their quotes or their horns.
A question of health
This increase in the trafficking of species puts human life at risk, as the United Nations has already warned, through its World Report on Crimes against Wildlife. “When wild animals are taken from their natural habitat, slaughtered and sold illegally, the potential for the transmission of zoonotic diseases increases, that is, those caused by pathogens that spread from animals to humans,” they indicate from the international body . According to the report, zoonotic diseases account for up to 75% of all emerging infectious diseases and include SARSCoV-2. The products offered from the trafficked species for human consumption by definition escape all sanitary or hygienic control; as such, they pose even greater risks of infectious diseases. Crime against wildlife is a global problem that affects all countries due to its repercussions on biological diversity, human health, security and socio-economic development. “Stopping the trafficking of species is a crucial step, not only to protect biological diversity and the rule of law, but to help prevent future public health emergencies,” says the UN.
Spain gate of Europe
As WWF highlights, in its 2018 report “The business of extinction in Spain”, the gateway to the European Union is Spain due to its strategic location (border with North Africa) and commercial (route of entry for many goods through its important ports), and for its historical relations with North Africa and Latin America. Through the country they pass from seahorses to corals and wild flora, passing through reptiles such as the black tortoise, falconiform birds and mammals such as primates. The country also suffers from poaching on protected species, a difficult crime to prosecute. Although the law has already been achieved to protect the closed season. Thus, on November 3, 2020, the full jurisdiction of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court concluded that hunting game species in this period of reproduction and subsistence, has ceased to be an administrative offense to be a crime, as published by FAADA.
The cost of hunting in human lives
On April 27, the Foreign Ministry confirmed the murder of two Spanish journalists kidnapped in Burkina Faso. Reporters David Beriain and Roberto Fraile, specialized in armed conflicts, were making a documentary about poaching in the region, together with Rory Young, an Irish conservationist who, through his NGO, Chengeta Wildlife, wanted to show the situation they are experiencing the natural parks in the area and the work to protect them. However, they were victims of a faction of Al Qaeda and not of poaching. But the case of the Spanish reporters does have to do with the fact that poaching is responsible for the death of nearly 1,000 park rangers in the last 10 years, defending the life and freedom of animals as emblematic as they are necessary, such as elephants. and rhinos, as reported by WWF in its campaign against species trafficking.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.