The impact humans have on the other living creatures that inhabit the planet with us is astounding. The industries that produce the creature comforts we have come to think of as normal and natural are scaring the face of our planet and destroying the habitats of far too many species. We produce massive amounts of greenhouse gasses that are changing the planet’s climate. We clearcut massive swaths of the Amazonian rainforest (and others) every year to make space for livestock, and we dump 8.8 million tons of plastic annually into the oceans around the world. These thoughtless practices are starting to have very real and very dangerous consequences for the world’s wildlife.
Not only are we destroying these animals habitats, we’re exploiting countless vulnerable creatures as well. The illegal wildlife trade is as massive as it is cruel – and it’s estimated to be a 20 billion dollar industry . This illicit trade deals in the sale of live animals and animals parts, and although it is restricted in many places, it continues to thrive. To put the scale of the impact into context, consider this: the ivory industry claims the lives of at least 30,00 elephants a year and three rhinos are killed a day for their horns. There are more tigers in American backyards than there are in the wild and Sun and Moon bears are in danger of being captured for bile farming. And these are only a few examples. So on top of degrading the environment, we are degrading ourselves by being unnecessarily cruel to millions of animals.
Take the turtle for example. Conservationist Shawn Heinrichs says,”Turtles are completely helpless; they have no defensive mechanisms other than their shells, which can be effective against toothed predators, but not against man.” Despite their harmless nature, sea turtles’ shells are pried off of their bodies and shipped far away to become decorative bowls and frames for our glasses. Their bodies are discarded. Shawn notes: “Within this great expansive ocean where we’ve depleted [many species of turtles] numbers down to a fraction.” Freshwater turtles are in danger as well. Though 80 percent of Asia’s freshwater turtle species are almost extinct, 28,300 freshwater turtles are trafficked every day.
This image from the Global Times illustrates what happens to turtles in this sordid industry.
Since we have been on the planet, over 1,000 different species have gone extinct. This is an unprecedented rate and some scientists view the era of man as the sixth extinction. Thie illegal wildlife trade is a part of the trend towards species loss and we don’t want that to be a part of our legacy.
You can help by raising awareness in your community surrounding the plight of endangered species. Share this post and encourage others to learn more about the illegal wildlife trade. When the buying stops, so can the killing!
Image source: Global Times/Facebook