But what exactly is wildlife trade? What are the pros and cons? And how are we a part of it?
Wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC defines the trade as “any sale or exchange of wild animal and plant resources by people.”
When legal and adequately regulated, wildlife trade can be a source for good. It can have a positive impact on communities by bolstering local economies and providing funds for healthcare and education. Those communities, in turn, are often incentivized to protect nature and conserve wild animals.
The trade in wildlife, however, has a dark side. Illegal and unregulated trade poses major security and health risks in addition to driving up crime and corruption. Perhaps most evident, however, has been its devastating impact on wildlife populations. Second only to habitat destruction, the wildlife trade is the most serious threat to the survival of species, including tigers.
Poachers target tigers for their fur, whiskers, and bones, which are then traded globally. Some body parts are incorrectly thought to possess medicinal properties, further fueling demand. Today just 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, a tenth of what the population was a century ago. The good news is that we can help. We, as individuals, have the power to help combat the illicit trade by being responsible consumers and active community members. Here are four things we can do.
There are several products to avoid altogether. These include everything from carved ivory to anything made from sea turtle shells. For a more complete list, check out the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance’s website and scroll down to their “Never Buy” section.
2.) Be in the Know
For all other items, make sure to ask questions. Get the facts on where it came from and what it’s made of. The same goes for exotic pets. Find out the country of origin and if the animal was captive-bred or captured in the wild.
3.) Choose Sustainable Seafood
Illegal fishing and harvesting of aquatic species are decimating populations and threatening several species with extinction. Make sure what you’re eating has been sustainably caught by heading to www.seafoodwatch.org and downloading the SeafoodWatch app.
4.) Take Action
Encourage your local lawmakers to support legislation to end wildlife trafficking. If you’re in the U.S., visit the Wildlife Trafficking Alliances Legislative Action Center to pledge your support for various acts.