The story of the Human Toll of Wildlife and Forest Crime, historically and inexorably linked to the exploitation of local communities and poor people, even before slavery and the ivory trade, needs to be shared with the international community in light of the growing scale of poaching and illegal trade of wildlife, which has now been recognized as a serious organized transnational crime.
People dying and getting injured (e.g., rangers, law enforcement officers, villagers, poachers)
People encouraged or forced to engage in criminal activities (e.g., breaking the law, possession and use of weapons, bribery, corruption)
Exploitation of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities
Families losing the breadwinners (e.g., due to death, injury, incarceration) – Orphans & widows
Fuelling conflict (e.g., financing terrorism and rebel militia) – see the investigation on ivory and the Somali terrorist group al–Shabaab (http://elephantleague.org/project/africas-white-gold-of-jihad-al-shabaab-and-conflict-ivory)
Other related criminal activities (e.g., threatening the rangers and their families, money laundering, tax evasion).
Other human costs of environmental and wildlife crime (e.g., impact on tourism and economy)
In the case of ivory and rhino horn, for example, as China and other Asian countries’ stores are filled with ivory trinkets or horn-based products, not many consumers are aware of the true cost of their purchase. While this trade drives the elephant and rhino population rapidly to extinction, an incalculable amount of human lives has been drastically affected as well.
Behind a simple ivory trinket on sale in Shanghai or Hong Kong a person is getting killed in Africa, a wife loses her husband, a child becomes an orphan or a soldier. Ivory, rhino horn and other illegal wildlife products consumers and traders should be held directly responsible for these murders and social destruction, as well as all those who facilitate the trade. By trading and buying ivory they become de-facto responsible for those deaths.
The human greed and desire to make one’s social status known by placing an ivory trinket on display in one’s home or by consuming other wildlife products have turned the continent of Africa into an extremely dangerous warzone.
In the photo: Ivory widow and orphan. The husband/father was a ranger killed in action. Credit: The Thin Green Line