People have been hunting wildlife for at least 10,000 years in Latin America, 40,000 years in Southeast Asia, and 100,000 years in Africa. What has changed?
First, human populations have increased – by an average of 300% in the past 50 years in countries across Southeast Asia, Central Africa, and Amazonia. Remaining wild areas have also become much more accessible, through improved river transport, railways, flights, and most especially roads, often built in the rush to extract timber, oil and other natural resources.
As soon as a road goes in, outside hunters and weapons also go in and wildlife flows cheaply and rapidly down to distant towns where it is either sold directly, or linked in to global markets through ships and planes. In Congo, wildlife densities declined by more than 25% in a single three week period after a forest was opened up by a logging company, and in areas of forest in Sarawak, Malaysia, which had been accessible by logging road for at least a year, no large mammals remained.
Hunting was once mainly for subsistence – most animals were hunted to feed the hunter and his family. But today, hunting has also become a global-scale, multi-billion dollar business, fueled by increased buying power among urban consumers around the world. And with globalization, trade chains have now extended well beyond the boundary of an animal’s country of origin, with ships and planes carrying wildlife to distant markets. Parrots from Cameroon and smoked monkey carcasses from Ghana are sold in New York and London, and turtles and pangolins from Indonesia are consumed in Hanoi and Guangzhou.
How does WCS respond to this Wildlife Trafficking emergency? Find it out here.