On the Surface
The United States is channeling millions of dollars into anti-poaching efforts, concentrating efforts mostly in Africa. As the United States grows into the second-largest market for illegal animal products, efforts need to be made to increase park security in African nations to stop illegal poaching.
Obviously, poaching poses a very serious threat to wildlife populations across the world. Species have been decimated as a result of illegal activity: half of Africa’s elephants have been killed for ivory since 1987.
However, poaching’s devastating effects aren’t solely confined to Africa; since most poached goods are illegal, interconnections with other black markets are common. Wildlife trafficking is most often carried out by groups that also traffic arms, drugs, and humans; some in Congress believe that this has implications for national security.
The Demand for Poached Goods
Wildlife trafficking is estimated to be an industry that does between 5 and 20 billion dollars per year. Most demand comes from Asia, where animal parts are used in traditional medicine or as symbols of wealth. However, the United States is another huge market, even serving as a port of-sorts to products moving through the Pacific.
Solving the Problem
Governments around the world have made efforts to curb poaching: many African governments (most famously Kenya) have publicly destroyed ivory stockpiles; last September, the US and China announced a joint moratorium on ivory trading. However, all of these approaches focus on the wrong thing: demand-side. In order to be successful in stopping poaching, a supply-side method must be used.
First, strict penalties must be levied against poachers. This acts as deterrence against illegal activity. But, more critically, the United States and other governments must support park rangers in National Parks around the world. This can be done relatively inexpensively: in Thailand, it costs around $5000 annually to support a park ranger. Only when rangers are given the resources and training they need will they be successful in combating poaching.