Elephant carcasses were discovered near or close to saltpans. In 2013, The Telegraph recorded 300 elephant deaths. The Guardian recorded over 20,000 deaths, Zimbabwe Standard recorded more than 500 deaths.
Chemical poisoning of wildlife was promoted in 2013, a total of forty cyanide-contaminated sites were recorded by the local authorities in Zimbabwe.
In 2013 the local authorities retrieved only fifty-one tusks.
The African elephant population has declined from twelve million to three-hundred and fifty in just a century. More than one-hundred thousand African elephants were poached in 2006-2015, for their tusks. Commercial international trade of ivory is prohibited under the convention of international trade in endangered species and the IUCN Red List. Despite the bans on domestic ivory trade, poaching continues, with high demand in 2019 from China (£1.27B), Nigeria (£1.0B), France (£800M), USA (£400M).
In 2018, China banned trade for elephant ivory. Poachers here annually murdered 30,000 African elephants for intricate carvings, ornaments and chopsticks. Xiangya means, “elephant tooth,” in Chinese culture this has led many to believe ivory can be taken from the elephant without inflicting harm. In 2007, 70% of poachers did not realise the elephant had to be killed to take its tusks.
During 2019, purchases from tourists increased by 27% but purchases from retailers decreased. In 2020 there was an 88% decline in ivory sales.
In South Africa, rhino poaching increased 7,000% from 2007 to 2013. In the last decade, 9,885 rhinos have been poached. Rhino poaching began to increase in 2008. In Africa, on average, a rhino is killed every twenty-two hours. The most illegal activity occurs in Kruger National Park, a protected habitat on the North-eastern border of South Africa.
At the beginning of the 20th century 500,000 rhinos roamed Africa and Asia, in 1970 the number decreased to 70,000 and today the number dropped to 27,000. There is only 46-66 Javan rhinos left.
African rhino horns are consumed as a symbol of wealth and medicine. Even though there have been no proven human medical benefits, Chinese medicine has used rhino horn for more than 2,000 years, to treat fever. Products have gone so far as to say the medicine treats cancer.
However, it has been known as a party drug in Vietnam, ingesting powdered rhino horn can cause nausea, vomiting, and convulsions but following the symbolism of wealth, rhino horn powder is more expensive than cocaine.
Interestingly, rhino horns do grow back but poachers often kill the rhino to collect the horns, even though cutting off the horn would preserve the animal’s life and allow the animal to grow a fresh horn. As long as you do not cut off the horn bed, the rhino does not feel pain.
In Namibia zero black rhinos have been poached since the dehorning in 1989, while white rhinos continue to be killed. In Zimbabwe, 4 out of 112 dehorned white rhinos and 5 out of 129 dehorned black rhinos have been killed by poachers.
Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world. Approximately 200,000 pangolins are poached every year. It is unknown how many are left in the wild.
Over 300 WildAid partners have trained law enforcement specialists to interdict shipments.
There are eight pangolin species in the world; Indian, Chinese, Sunda and Philippine; white-bellied pangolin, black-bellied pangolin, giant pangolin and Temminck’s pangolin. All are under protection.
Pangolins play a critical role in their ecosystem, they provide nature pest control, pangolins consume up to 70 million insects a year: ants and termites.
Pangolin is traded as meat delicacy in China and Vietnam, their meat is believed to have health benefits that nourish kidneys, despite lack of evidence. Pangolin scales are used as an ingredient in Asian medicine to help breast feeding women lactate milk and to cure asthma, psoriasis and cancer, again there is no scientific results claiming pangolin scales actual heal severe human health.
In June 2020, the Chinese government announced that they no longer approve of scales in medicinal drugs. Despite a global ban of international trade of scales in 2017, 51 tonnes were held in 2019, transported through Nigeria. In 2018, IFAW supported the China-Vietnam cross-border law enforcement, within a month, three containers were seized by Vietnam Customs, transferred across Nigeria.
Malayan pangolins were amongst the first animals suspected to carry the coronavirus. Rare and endangered animals are commonly sold in wildlife markets ‘wet markets’, in China. A wet market vendor said it couldn’t have been them who brought the COVID-19 disease to light. The same month the first case of coronavirus occurred; Chinese customs officials discovered 10 tons of pangolin scales.
A quarter of 400 species of shark are facing risk of extinction, due to illegal fishing and shark fin trading. About 273 million sharks are killed each year by humans. Every year 73 million sharks are killed for their fins.
Shark finning is cutting off a live shark’s fin and throwing the rest of the animal back into the ocean, where it dies, slowly and painfully. Poaching operates in the Eastern Pacific, from Mexico to Northern Chile and Costa Rica.
Shark fin soup is considered a prized meal in Chinese culture, it is supposed to have health benefits. The soup is believed to improve skin quality, prevent heart disease, fight cancer and lower cholesterol, even though there has been no scientific proof of any medical value.
Shark fins carry dangerous levels of methylmercury and neurotoxins but a bowl of shark fin soup costs about $100 and $450 per pound. It is considered a symbol of wealth.
Methylmercury impairs neurological development, cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, motor, and visual skills. Neurotoxins damage the nervous system, intellectual disability, persistent memory. Causes, epilepsy and dementia.
Sharks play a crucial role in maintaining marine biodiversity, yet the consumption of shark fin soup has led to overfishing and many vulnerable shark species, including inhumane practices of finning.
Since 2011, there has been an estimated 50-70% decrease in shark fin consumption in China. In 2016, China announced that shark fin consumption had fallen by 80%. Furthermore, China Seafood Logistic and Processing Association reported that shark fin imports to China decreased by 81% from 2011 – 2014.
Giant Manta Rays are poached for their gill plates. Gill plates are used to filter feed on small zooplankton from the water column. Their population has dropped by 86%, there is estimated to be around 100 – 1,500 left. Manta Ray’s meat is considered to be a delicacy in Mexico and China.
Trade of Manta Ray gill plate has soared in Asia in 20 years. They believe that the gill plates that are designed to filter the plankton consumed from seawater can cure cancer, acne and can boost the immune system. These medical practices are old-folk myths and superstitions, with no scientific evidence of gill plates being medically beneficial but rather a placebo. These beliefs are partially responsible for the culling of many valuable marine life.
Even though Rays are edible, they are also known as “trash fish”, meaning that the meat is often dry and replaced as chicken or shrimp in street markets. Manta Rays have dangerously high levels of mercury and often other toxic chemicals, due to bio-accumulation of pollution, consuming Ray meat could cause serious health conditions, not cure them.
Poaching Manta Ray’s is a long-standing tradition in Lamakera. Ray’s are commonly found in plankton waters. People in Lamakera rely on the sea for their livelihoods, due to their barren nature. They are a chain of islands along the southern edge of Indonesia.
Before the 2000s in Lamakera, Manta’s were only hunted for food and dried in the sun on bamboo poles, the meat was locally consumed and traded. During the 2000s, Manta’s gills become commercially valuable, there became high-demand, mainly from China.