Illegal wildlife trade or wildlife trafficking, the 3rd most extensive group of illicit businesses, is a severe and widespread crime. A vast number of plants and animals are to target in this trade, an estimated worth USD 7-36, have been reported between 1996-2008.From the records of TRAFFIC and Wildlife fund, around 20% of all seizures are from India,11% [China], 10% [UK], 6% [USA], 6% [Belgium, Australia and Malaysia].
Recently increasing evidence of monotremes including a short and large beaked echidna, tigers, leopards, turtles, pangolin, reptiles as live products also mammals and mammal derivatives including ivory, tiger skins, husks, rhino horns, pangolin scales, ambergris, and other endangered wildlife have been seized very commonly in the past few years.
Wildlife products are considered luxury goods such that consumption is driven by choice rather than necessity. The basic rule of such trade is economics;
Where there is demand, there is supply!
Asian countries such as China and India show a massive demand for such goods. Wildlife products are considered as the superior, authentic and cultural basis. According to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and TRAFFIC recently reported an increased percentage of illegal trade. Around 96,000 kg of pangolin scales, 4500 African rhino’s horns, 225,000 kilograms of ivory, etc., were seized or have entered the unlawful trade market in the last ten years. Along with this exciting number of cases, the lack of proper tools and techniques for tracking and identifying wild species complicates things. Domestic markets of wildlife mainly concentrate outside the jurisdiction. Millions of species by CITES limits them in the regulation of illegal international trades are not listed. Domestic markets of nature primarily focus outside the jurisdiction.
CONSUMPTION AND DEMAND OF WILDLIFE DERIVATIVES
MEDICINAL PURPOSES AND WILDLIFE
The use of plants and animals for medicinal purposes has occurred for millennia. Without any such scientific shreds of evidence of animal products to cure a particular disease, trafficking animals are continuing.
Rhinos are mainly poached for their horns. According to TRAFFIC, Rhino horns ars chemically complex. It contains large quantities of Sulphur-containing amino acids, particularly cysteine, tyrosine, histidine, lysine, and arginine, and the salts calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate for treating hangover for cancer, so such misconceptions about the health benefits and people still blindly following it across the globe.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
Wildlife products are a ton in demand, and it’s all because of TMC or Traditional Chinese Medicine. Most mainland Chinese people depend on TMC as their primary health care. Eating endangered and exotic food and hanging of TMC is considered “high status” in China. Bear liver, the penis of tiger for sexual powers or its heart for good heart health also making ‘aphrodisiacs’ from snakes gall bladder are some of the most fantastic attractions of TMC. Despite its long history and increasing, popularity TMC has been criticized by the medical community for its direct hand in the growing demand for threatened species.
- FMCG AND WILDLIFE PRODUCTS
- EXOTIC ANIMALS AS PETS
IMPLICATIONS OF WILDLIFE TRADE
Wildlife trafficking will cause biodiversity loss, invasion of alien species, affect human and animal health, spread zoonotic diseases, and significant depletion of endangered species.
The high demand for exotic and ornamental species will increase its poaching and harvesting, leading to the extinction of that species. Thus, significant and more removal of fittest individuals from breeding population decrease fitness in subsequent generations. Similarly, Elephant poaching mainly concentrates on male individuals with tusk left a gender imbalance among the population. Population depletion of a particular member or absence of species in an ecosystem will affect the keystone species, leading to the imbalance of the whole food web.
According to World Organization for Animal Health, an estimated 60 percent of known human diseases originated in animals. Considering that movement of live and wildlife products can be a potential carrier or intermediate host for many deadly diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, etc.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China theorized to have jumped from bats into humans and then spread at a wet market in Wuhan, possibly through an intermediate host, has shined a spotlight on how easily zoonotic diseases can emerge from wildlife. Similarly, the origin of HIV is likely linked to the human consumption of nonhuman primates. Recent Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreaks in humans have been traced to index patient contact with infected great apes hunted for food. SARS-associated coronavirus (2003) has been associated with the international trade in small carnivores.
HOW IS ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE LINKED WITH COVID-19 TRAGEDY?
The origin of the novel coronavirus remains uncertain, but there is a considerable probability that it spilled to close contact between humans and animals. Animals include high-risk wildlife bats and primates. Consumption and close contact, trade, and hunting with such animals increase the spread of many deadly zoonotic diseases. The government seems ignorant regarding zoonosis emergence and wildlife trade.
There should be strict rules and regulations imposed for illegal wildlife trade for human well-being, environmental health, and public health and strictly ban the consumption and handling of trade animals.
INDIA ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE
India is a state where wildlife gets exploited mainly for superstitions, beliefs, and rituals. According to WWF India and TRAFFIC, sixteen species of owls have been identified that are commonly trafficked in the wildlife trade in India. WWF India has said, highlighting that the birds are victims. In the past year, the Special Task Force (STF) has seized as many as 15 leopard skin, nine elephant tusks, two deerskin, four live pangolins, and 13 kg pangolin scales and arrested 32 wildlife criminals. The Indian Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) reported many such cases, mainly including the states Jharkhand, Odisha, and the northeast part of India. Still, possibilities for ivory are primarily written from the southern part of India. WCCB also launched an awareness campaign on the illegal wildlife trade, ‘Not All Animals Migrate by Choice.’ In February 2015, in partnership with WWF-India and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), TRAFFIC launched a social media campaign to create awareness and divert efforts towards curbing illegal trade in pangolins.
Wildlife trade hub Vietnam is also a hub of impunity for traffickers
According to a new report, only 14% of the wildlife seizures in Vietnam over the past decade led to convictions. This is due to weak enforcement and poor coordination between agencies.
The report by the U.K.’s Environmental Investigation Agency revealed that only 17 of 120 seizures of rhino ivory, pangolin scales, and rhino horns made in Vietnam between 2010 and 2012 led to convictions. This is just one of seven cases. It was revealed that half of all shipments were from Africa, which underlines Vietnam’s position as an import hub for illegal wildlife products.