In Part I of this series, we touched upon the overall threat of extinction being faced by numerous species, primarily driven by sale and trade of their body parts. In this installment, we talk about 5 additional species that are teetering on the brink of extinction and have outlined what you can do to help.
Marine turtles: Hawksbill, Green and Leatherback, like many marine turtles, are in decline. Turtle eggs are often stolen for human consumption, and because of the longevity and slow maturation of turtles eggs, it can decimate breeding. The meat and shells are popular as well and baby turtles are sold as pets.
Primates: The illegal “bushmeat” trade is one of the main causes of decline of primates in the wild, particularly chimpanzees,gorillas, monkeys and mandrills. It is doubly tragic as it is often the result of poverty. Bushmeat consumption is also a major human health threat since it is linked to deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS. While poverty is a big cause, cultural legacy plays a significant role as well — in rural areas of Africa, ethnic groups eat what the forest provides and bushmeat provides up to 80% of protein in peoples’ diets.
Hammerhead Sharks: Although exact numbers are not known, it is believed that Hammerheads have declined by over 95% in the last 30 years. Hammerheads are mainly for their fins. The practice of ‘shark finning’ (i.e. cutting the fin off a live shark and throwing it back), is primarily driven by its use in Shark Fin Soup, an Asian delicacy.
Seahorses: Used in Asian traditional medicines, in fish tanks and as souvenirs, seahorses are both threatened by poachers and more recently, the pollution resulting from the BP spill off the Gulf of Mexico in early 2010. Project Seahorse banned the trade internationally in 1996, however thriving illicit trading of seahorses continues. Philippines is known to have various illegal family run seahorse farms.
While we can’t prevent poachers, we can encourage governments to take measures to alleviate poverty, donate more international aid and find alternative ways of livelihood for those desperate enough to kill endangered species and get involved in criminal activities. Donating money to organizations like TRAFFIC and ESI can help. Governments that ban the illegal trade in a species can very favorably affect that trade; for example, in 1992 the U.S. banned the import of wild caught parrots that dramatically reduced that trade by 40%, and a 1989 ban on ivory worldwide saw a massive drop from 10,000 to 100 elephants a year in Tanzania alone.
Traditional medicine uses of wild animals remains a barrier to reducing illegal poaching. Researchers are working on synthetic alternatives to tiger bones and the like to meet the demand in China. Further, China has made huge strides in Panda poaching – life prison sentences are imposed for killing Pandas which dramatically reduced the trade.
The real issue, like all animal use in the world, is human demand for products derived from animals (whether endangered, exotic or domesticated). As individuals, we have he power to cut off the market that is driving these animals to extinction by steadfastly refusing to buy or accept as gifts any items that contain the body parts of endangered animals, especially when traveling abroad.
We can; You can.