What is Poaching?

Spread from If Elephants Disappeared, published by Roaring Brook Press September 2019.

Poaching is when an animal is captured or killed illegally.

Poaching happens frequently to endangered animals or animals who possess something of worth (fur, ivory, shark fins, etc.) or animals that are considered exotic (to be kept as a pet). Poaching occurs all over the world from big animals like the African Savanna Elephant to small animals like the Pangolin and has devastating consequences to animal populations and biodiversity. Run like the drug trade or crime organizations, illegal poaching operations are huge, widespread, and complicated, making billions of dollars a year on the black market.

It is often easy to think of poaching as a cruel and heartless act, however it can sometimes be a case of desperation in areas where there is little hope to get out of poverty. To make ends meet, rural fisherman will harvest shark fins on the side to sell at a high price while some displaced people in Africa hunt the protected wildlife to feed their families. This is not to pardon the act of poaching, because it is a horrible act and the effects of poaching are long lasting and widespread (affecting everything from local biodiversity to climate change), this is merely to explain that like us, poachers are humans just trying to survive, often in the face of extreme adversity. With little support from local and national governments after displacement (for local wildlife refuges) or jobs becoming obsolete, people in poverty act out of desperation. Introducing former shark poachers to eco tourism guiding or game poachers to being trained in conservation could be a positive way for governments around the world to support their people and curb poaching.

Luckily today there are lots of conservation organizations working hard to end poaching across the world and governments cracking down on illegal trade of endangered animal products. One of the best things you can do to ensure poaching doesn’t continue is to tell your friends about what poaching is and how and where poaching happens in the world — from the sea turtle eggs on the beaches in Florida, to shark fins in Costa Rica, to African Forest Elephants in the Congo, poaching affects animals all across the globe. It is also important to vote for representatives that value conservation and believe in enforcing regulations and laws around hunting.

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