AS per United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) estimates, the yearly value of poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking, excluding fishing and logging, ranges from US$7 billion to US$23 billion.
Several routes of wildlife trafficking feed into the legal trade, but the main beneficiary is the illegal retail markets. Criminals get access to a far bigger source of demand when wildlife that is traded unlawfully is brought into legal marketplaces, as opposed to just the black market.
Still, depending on where and how they were obtained, the products involved in wildlife trafficking may be legal or criminal. Paperwork produced by fraud, falsification, and corruption serves as proof of their legitimacy.
Exotic birds and reptiles, caviar, elephant ivory, rhino horn, and tiger parts are among the most valuable illegal wildlife goods. Several international organisations state that this illegal activity is the fifth most lucrative criminal activity overall, after the worldwide traffic in humans, weapons, drugs, and counterfeit goods.
It is also one of the five main categories of environmental crime.
Wildlife crime is a lucrative industry. Similar to illegal drugs and weaponry, wildlife and animal parts are trafficked by perilousn transnational networks. It is nearly impossible to find accurate estimates of the value of the illegal wildlife trade due to its very nature.
Worldwide, there is a general fall in wildlife numbers. Because of the drastic decrease, it is believed that human biomass has surpassed that of all wild mammals combined by an order of magnitude. Two major factors contributing to this serious issue are habitat destruction and poaching for the benefit of the global illegal wildlife trade (IWT).
It is frequently operated by sophisticated, global, and well-organised criminal networks that aim to take advantage of the trade's high profits and minimal risks.
- Feature: Researchers strive to end human-wildlife conflicts in Southern Africa
- Mushakwe paints grim mural to warn about climate change
- Illegal wildlife trade cripples Africa’s GDP
Poaching is also caused locally by political instability, poor enforcement, poverty, and corruption.
The protection of rhinos and elephants has drawn a lot of attention from around the world, but there is also great pressure on other mammals, like cats (like lions, tigers, and snow leopards), non-human primates (like great apes, monkeys), and pangolins — endangered, scaly-skinned mammals that are highly sought after for their meat and scales and may be the most trafficked mammal in the world.
Poaching and illegal trafficking have a severe negative influence on numerous species of fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates, all of which need immediate care. The purported medical benefits of some goods or the social status connected with them may be driving the demand for animal products.
Other demand drivers include opportunistic buying motivated by a desire to own exotic pets and uncommon plants and animals.
The use of wire snares for bushmeat trapping is one of the most common ways of poaching in Africa, according to Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust.
Like many African nations, Zimbabwe struggles with poverty and has over 80% unemployment. In order to feed their families, people will set out wire snares to catch warthogs or antelope, but since the snares are not species-specific, any animal can become trapped.
This can lead to more complex and sophisticated kinds of poaching, and it is still illegal. Nowadays, some poachers are catching buffalo and elephants with multistrand wire so they can sell the flesh (commercial poaching).
It is common knowledge that rhino horn and elephant ivory are highly sought after, and in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) region, elephant poaching is on the rise due to the increased use of poison, according to Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust.
Nonetheless, the illicit wildlife trade involves numerous additional species globally, with pangolins being the most widely trafficked animal. Scaly anteaters, pangolins are widespread throughout Africa and some regions of Asia.
These are nocturnal mammals that mostly consume termites and ants. They are often trafficked into Asia, where there is a rising market for them.
Pangolin meat is prized in China and Vietnam, and the animals' scales are used in traditional medicine to cure a range of illnesses.
As per the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), there were roughly 192 576 pangolins involved in 1 557 seizure operations between 1999 and 2017.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) will also carry out community engagement and awareness programmes on wildlife and forest law.
The Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed on September 13, 2023, calls for the Parties to work together to implement projects related to mitigating and combating wildlife crime, forest crime, and illegal wildlife trade, while also improving investigations, prosecution, and adjudication of these crimes.
The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) spokesperson, Tinashe Farawo told certain media outlets that foreigners mostly gave local poachers money incentives.
In Matabeleland South's Matopo National Park and Manicaland's Chipinge safari area, according to Farawo, is where rhino poaching is mostly concentrated.
Zimbabwe lost animals valued at millions of dollars due to poaching of elephants and rhinoceros, particularly in the Covid-19 era.
"A minimum of US$$6,8 million (136 x 50 000) in estimated compensation value was lost due to poaching over the course of the last five years," Farawo stated.
The anticipated compensation value for the 64 rhinos that were poached between January 2018 and June 2023 is $12,8 million.
This is calculated by multiplying the number of rhinoceros by 200 000.
The majority of illegal wildlife product customers are Asian nations, which are also major source and transit markets. The countries with the highest demand are Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, and China. Another important area for this illegal activity is Africa. Ivory and rhino horns, two of the most valuable and much sought-after wildlife products, originate in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.
- Denhere is an investigative Journalist. — +263773894975, [email protected].