Though animals being poached occasionally fight back against their poachers, it's a losing battle. The illegal hunting of animals has taken the lives of so many creatures that it may be too late to reverse the damage. Whether it's turtle shells transformed into high end jewelry or tiger's whiskers used in traditional Asian medicine, the animals behind these coveted status symbols are slaughtered faster than their populations can recover. These animals will be poached during your lifetime – but they don't have to disappear entirely.
Animals listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature are given certain protections that promise heavy jail time and massive fines for poachers, but it's not always effective. The population of Black Rhinos has shrunk by 97.6% since 1960 and their horns still sell for $30,000 a pound despite their endangered status. For animals at risk of endangerment but not yet considered endangered (like the 35,000 African elephants that were killed in the last year), protections are scarce. These are the animals that suffer the most.
In your lifetime, it's likely that these animals will be extinct from the wild unless conservationists can step in.
Pangolin, a burrowing mammal, is widely regarded as the most poached mammal in the world. These solitary, nocturnal creatures are highly sought after because of the keratin scales protecting their skin which are used in traditional Eastern medicine, fine dining, and fashion accessories. In the last decade, an estimated one million pangolins have been slaughtered and they've all but disappeared in China. Vietnam, Thailand, Africa, and Southeast Asia are next.
The world is fighting back against the massive Pangolin market and the countries where pangolin trade runs rampant are trying hard to catch poachers. In June of 2016, Hong Kong authorities confiscated a 4.4 ton haul of pangolin scales worth an estimated $1.25 million dollars. The haul was said to contain scales from between 1,000 and 6,600 African pangolins, and was masked as "sliced plastics." In 2015, 84 poachers were arrested in Zimbabwe alone.see more on Pangolin
According to United for Wildlife, the illegal rhino horn trade is at a 20-year high, even after years of ongoing conservation efforts. In the last four years, over 4,000 rhino horns were illegally exported from Africa with just a single ounce of rhino horn raking in $1,700 on the black market. Though rhino horns are used in Eastern medicine, most of the demand is driven by Vietnam, where people consume rhino horn powder to show off their wealth.
The sad truth is that millions of black and white rhinos roamed in the wild just 150 years ago. Unfortunately, the most recent census shows a population that's massively shrinking. It's thought that just over 20,000 Southern white rhinos and 4,800 black rhinos exist in the wild (a number that's likely much lower in 2017). The Javan rhino is the most threatened of all five rhino specie with just 35 left in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park and none in captivity.see more on Javan Rhinoceros
Sea Otter fur trade was a massive industry in the United States before it became more or less illegal without a permit. About 500,000 sea otters were killed between 1740 and 1911, and thousands more were killed between 1940 and the mid-1970s when their pelts were legally imported into the United States from Latin America. It's estimated that just as many pelts were also illegally imported. Today, sea otter poaching runs rampant in Asia where the critters are thought to carry medicinal properties.
It's not just poaching for fur or meat that's a major threat to sea otters. Fishermen are perhaps one of the species' biggest predators. Sea otters eat the same shellfish fishermen depend on, so they're often hanging out in the same waters. While a handful of otters accidentally get tangled in fishing nets and drown, some fishermen actively kill otters to preserve their shellfish bounty.
California is fighting back against those who are poaching rare Southern sea otters – the species is protected under California Law as well as the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Internationally importing otter fur has been illegal in various countries since 1973 and if someone hurts or harasses a Southern sea otter in America, they can expect fines up to $100,000 and possible jail time. It's also illegal to remove a sea otter's pelt without a permit.
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By 2050, it's likely that lions will be extinct. The big cats have unfortunately suffered a terrible fate since tigers became exceedingly rare. They've been deemed a suitable alternative for poachers no longer able to traffic tiger products – and their population is dwindling as a result. Over the last two decades, the lion population has shrunk by 42% and it's estimated that just 23,000 of the big cats exist in the wild. Combine poaching with the loss of their natural habitat, and most lions don't stand a chance.
Conservationists are dutifully working to make sure extinction doesn’t become a reality. The Global White Lion Protection Trust has recently reintroduced a number of captive-bred white lions into their natural habitat. There were previously thought to be just 13 white lions left in the wild.
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