Illegal Wildlife Trade: How to Stop It
The illegal wildlife trade is one of the most destructive crimes on the planet, with an estimated value of $23 billion a year. This illegal activity devastates ecosystems and endangered species, from lions to elephants, rhinos, sharks, turtles, and pangolins. While stopping this ecological crisis isn’t a one-person task, you can make a difference in this global fight.
Illegal Wildlife Trade: What is it?
The illegal wildlife trade is the act of profiting from illegally trading live plants, animals, and animal products. A few examples of violations include the buying and selling of ivory, capturing endangered turtles for their meat or shells; or killing lions for their claws, teeth, skins, and bones. If you’re wondering, “How do illegal exports of wildlife threaten the ecosystem?” the answer is fairly simple. The continued existence of this market endangers the environment, destroys habitats, and threatens to make many species go extinct.
How Can We Prevent Wildlife Trafficking?
Below, we’ll look at some of the most effective methods of fighting the illegal wildlife trade from home.
Buy Sustainable Products
While this won’t end the illegal wildlife trade, making conscious decisions to only consume sustainable products that have been sourced legally and ethically, hinders unregulated marketplaces and vendors. Look for companies with certifications that show a transparent supply chain, eco-friendly practices, and fair treatment of workers. If anything ever seems suspicious or there is not enough information provided, avoid that company.
Avoid Exotic Animal Products
Unfortunately, there are a lot of products on the market that are less obvious than, say, ivory, and you might not even realize that they come from poaching. For example, high percentages (but not all) of coral, abalone, tropical timber, rosewood, exotic feathers, and turtle shells come from the illegal wildlife trade. It’s best to avoid any souvenirs, jewelry or ornaments created from these or any other exotic animals or plants that you are unfamiliar with.
The Trouble with Wildlife Tourism
Wildlife tourism is a huge business that is fraught with illegal activity. While there are ethical animal experiences out there, you should always be extra careful when looking for one. A lot of tourist traps selling elephant rides, dolphin encounters, and other animal activities in this trade are riddled with abuse. Many of these companies have acquired the animals illegally and are profiting from their suffering.
Support Conservation Organizations
Of course, the most direct way to stop illegal wildlife trade is to support conservation organizations that are fighting on the ground to protect animals and plants. There are plenty of ways to get involved with conservation efforts, from signing petitions to sharing about the cause on social media, and even organizing a town fundraiser. You can also show support with your purchase power by buying products from companies that donate a percentage of their proceeds to conservation, like ours. For example, with every lion tracking bracelet purchased, we donate to Ewaso Lions to help support wildlife protection.
Report Illegal Wildlife Trade Activity
Finally, if there's a company that you realize is engaging in problematic behaviors, be sure to report them! You can report illegal wildlife trade on the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online.
You may not always feel like you're making a difference when doing the small acts mentioned on this list. However, if your actions mean protecting just one animal from being abused or killed, isn’t it worth it? Each time we choose to buy sustainable goods, are conscious travelers, and support conservation efforts, we create change. Together, we can make a difference!