tigers extinction poachers rhinos

Internet threatens rare species, conservationists warn
chinese medicine illicit trade endangered species

Tigers and Rhinos on verge of extinction due to poachers

Why is it so hard for the most powerful species to leave other life forms alone? We find them beautiful; why must we kill them off? How does it feel to be a member of such an unconscious species? Wouldn’t it feel better to be a steward of all life, to husband the animals and plants that sustain us, and co-inhabit Earth with the rest? We trim, blend, and append three 2010 articles from: (1) BBC, Mar 15, on tigers by Richard Black; (2) Los Angeles Times, Mar 16, on rhinos by Robyn Dixon; and (3) BBC, Mar 21, on the internet.

by Richard Black, by Robyn Dixon, and by BBC

Tiger are on the verge of extinction as their numbers continue to fall. Fewer than 3,200 remain in the wild. Many populations are small, and are threatened by deforestation as well as poaching.

Organized crime rings are playing an increasing part in illegal trading of tiger parts, as they are with bears, rhinos, and elephants.

The global black market in wildlife products was worth about $10bn per year, making wildlife the third most valuable illicit commodity after drugs and weapons.

Although China and other East Asian countries are the principal consumers of tiger parts, exports travel much further afield.

Conservationists point to China's tiger farms as a threat too; they perpetuate a market into which wild tiger parts can be sold, often commanding a higher value as products made from wild animals are perceived to be more "potent".

The World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS) called on traditional medicine practitioners to abandon the use of tiger parts.

A sharp surge in poaching in South Africa and Zimbabwe by organized gangs has devastated Zimbabwe's rhino population and threatens to wipe out South Africa's critically endangered black rhinos within a decade. The more common white rhino won't be far behind.

Rhino are almost as big as a car, weighing from 2,000 to 3,000 pounds. From a few yards away, they are terrifying.

In Africa, ranchers raise rhinos, some to attract tourists while others rely on limited trophy hunting

About 1,500 rhino horns were traded illegally in the last three years, despite a long-standing ban on international trade.

The police are little help. In one recent case, they arrived four days after a group of rhinos was killed. In another, a police officer picked up an ax abandoned by the poachers, destroying any fingerprints.

In Zimbabwe, corrupt government, army, and wildlife officials collect kickbacks from poachers and smugglers.

China's recent thrust into Africa in a rush for resources is a major factor in the illegal rhino horn and ivory trade. Rhino horn has long been used in Chinese medicinal tonics.

Reports in Vietnam that a government official was "cured" of cancer by rhino horn appear to have spurred Asian demand.

It is easier than ever before to buy and sell anything from live baby lions to polar bear pelts on online auction sites and chatrooms.

Thousands of endangered species are regularly traded on the internet, as buyers and sellers take advantage of the anonymity -- and vast global market -- the world wide web can offer.

Attempts to ban trade in polar bears, bluefin tuna, rare corals, and other endangered species have all failed, leaving environmental activists dismayed.

JJS: Let’s assume for a moment that wild animal parts do work to cure disease. Then, not only would you want to benefit from their powers today, you’d also want to use them tomorrow. Yet users are driving the animals to extinction. Then they won’t be able to benefit from what they believe to be the source of their cures in the future. So you know you’re not dealing with rational people.

How can you deal with irrational people? One way is to outnumber them. That is, help their society become more rational over all. What might do that is prosperity, because material development creates jobs that are less manual, more mental, and workers need to be trained. So society learns to appreciate education and with that, technology, science, and rationality.

How can society develop economically? It can use geonomics. That is, quit subsidizing elite insiders, quit taxing people’s efforts, instead recover the socially-generated value of sites and resources, and use the revenue to fund truly desired services and/or a Citizens Dividend. Every place that used even a little geonomics has prospered.

And being a moral system that treats people fairly -- keep earnings and share common wealth -- it may help people extend ethical consideration to non-human living beings.

Also, receiving a fair share of Earth's worth might make people feel more appreciative of Mother Earth and more willing to share the planet with all life. Indeed, keeping a diversity of species would maintain the health of the ecosystem. And a healthier region would have higher land values, so everyone's rent dividends would be higher, so people might learn conservation via their pocketbooks.

The other main strategy to deal with poachers is to put a price on their heads (for arrest, not capital punishment) higher than what the superstitious put on the wild animals. Then the people who live in nature will help police the wilds. And poachers might find better work as tour guides into natural habitat.


Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Polar bears and bison are on the brink -- can zoos help?

If salmon can't be saved …

Tiger attacks trigger expert plea

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