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TRADING TO EXTINCTION

The illegal animal trade

TRADING to

EXTINCTION

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PAT R I C K BROWN

PAT R I C K B R O W N


Trading in Extinction

The illegal wildlife trade in Asia

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For my family and other animals


Introduction

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rom the pristine jungles of Cambodia to the great national parks of India and Nepal, Asian wildlife is being plundered and trafficked on an unprecedented scale.

Booming markets created by globalisation and the ease of smuggling has boosted this trade on new and uncontrollable levels. It is estimated that wildlife traders export 25,000-30,000 primates every year - along with 2-5 million birds, 10 million reptile skins, and more than 500 million tropical fish. The exploitation of wildlife is centuries old. Thirteenth-century Cambodia boasted thriving markets for tigers, panthers, bears, wild boars, stags and gibbons. China has long pillaged the animal world for its supposed medicinal benefits, and today remains one of the trade’s biggest players. With the arrival in Asia of European colonialists, and soaring demand from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, the killing rose to the record levels we see today. Some animal parts have been embued with near-magical properties. Superstitious Chinese believe eating the flesh of a tiger will give them some of the animal’s strength, while tiger’s penis is highly prized as an aphrodisiac. Countless other animal parts--rhinocerous horn, shark fin, bear gall bladder, monkey brain--have been credited with similar potency. Scientific studies have proved these beliefs wrong, yet the trade of animals continues largely unchecked, fueled by ignorance, greed and corruption. The animal trade is now so large it could have irrevocable consequences for life on our planet. More and more species now stand at the verge of extinction. The disappearance of key animals such as tigers disrupts the food chain, which in turn affects the balance of nature. In India, environmental abuse and the annihilation of animal life has turned lush jungles into empty deserts. Similar nightmare scenarios are being played out across the globe. Attempts to halt the animal trade have so far been too little, too late. One big problem is catching the traders, many of whom are known to anti-trafficking authorities, but who operate unhindered due to official corruption and inertia. Small-time operators - usually impoverished locals forced into poaching and trading animals on the black market – are caught and jailed, but the powerful traders remain at large. The problem seems insurmountable. But one way of curbing this rampant killing is to educate future generations. We must remove antiquated and false beliefs about the potency of animal parts, thereby decreasing the demand for them. Remove the consumer, and we are one step closer to halting this destructive and unnecessary trade.


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