8 Points to Understand the Worsening Poaching Crisis in Africa

Seanna Simpson looks into illegal ivory trade and the risks that elephants and rhinoceroses face .

Photo by Save-Elephants from Wikimedia Commons

* Most information for this article was pulled from the article https://www.thoughtco.com/poaching-in-africa-43351 written by Angela Thompsell. Other sources cited appropriately.

  1. Poaching in the 1800s

In the 1800s, European big game hunters traveled to Africa and were found guilty of poaching. Some of these Europeans were even tried and found guilty by African kings whose land they were poaching on. Even in these times, poaching was illegal and has been for hundreds of years, but it was during the Middle Ages that it became a punishable offense.

During the mid-1800s poachers began selling animals illegally to the black market and the buyers included a wide range of people. This new trade created a huge market and this is why it is still so profitable even today. Although poaching has been going on for most of history, the 1800s are what began the crisis that threatened species such as elephants and rhinoceroses.

Photo of elephants from Flickr.com with permission to use

2. New preservation laws

It was during the beginning of the 1900s that new game preservation laws began to be enacted by European colonial states. It was decided that most forms of hunting in Africa, including hunting for food, was deemed as poaching and became illegal to help reduce the poaching of endangered animals.

It was during these years that poaching for commercial gain became more of an issue, but the decline of animal populations were nowhere near the crisis levels that would soon emerge.

3. Crisis levels emerge

In the 1970s, poaching reached crisis levels with the elephant and rhinoceros populations now facing extinction. It was shortly after African countries gained independence and although the game preservation laws remained intact, poaching for food and commercial gain was still continuing.

Those who were hunting for food were putting animal populations at risk, but it was those that poached for monetary gain in the black markets that were putting elephants and rhinoceroses at risk for extinction.

4. Protection of endangered species

In 1973, eighty countries came together at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to protect endangered species. Their current mission statement is that, “its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.”

Although Rhinoceroses were added to this list of protection, African elephants have not yet been added.

5. Elephants are added to CITES list

By the 1990s, many of the African elephants were added to the list of protected animals of CITES. This significantly helped reduce the illegal ivory trade and helped it reach manageable levels. However, rhinoceros poaching continued to be a threat to the species at this point.

In 1997, CITES created an Elephant Trade Information system for tracking illegal ivory trafficking. This was meant to help track the reports of the illegal ivory trade in one set database which would soon prove useful.

6. Dangerous levels reached again

In the early 2000s, demand for ivory rose which thus made the illegal act of poaching worse during these years. This caused crisis levels to be reached and elephants and rhinoceroses were being killed at dangerous rates.

These beautiful animals are killed for ivory and rhino horns. Ivory can be found in elephant’s tusks and teeth. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the trade of elephants and rhinos are the second-largest threat to wildlife after habitat loss.

7. Elephants in danger

It was discovered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature that 20,000 elephants were being killed annually. This exceeds their birth rates which brought elephants even closer to extinction if these numbers did not decline.

It is expected that by 2034, the populations of rhinoceroses and elephants will be extinct if the demand for ivory and rhino horns do not decline. Since these items are mainly from Africa, the focus on fixing the poaching issue should be focused here.

8. Reports of illegal ivory trading

The Elephant Trade Information System from CITES had over 10,300 reports of illegal ivory smuggling since 1989 when the data was publicly published in 2015. Currently, the recent numbers from 2020 have shown a decline in poaching due to international efforts.

According to the NRDC, federal laws on poaching have been strengthened. Most countries have bans on the importation of African elephant ivory. Poaching is an issue that fluctuates and will always have to be watched in order to preserve the lives of elephants and rhinoceroses. Currently there are many organizations dedicated to the preservation of endangered species and to stop poachers from killing these beautiful animals.

Explainer Journalism by Seanna Simpson for the Reynolds Sandbox

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