Updated: Jan 21, 2019
Wildlife conservation and protection efforts celebrated several success stories in 2018 including China’s ban on ivory trading and a near doubling of the tiger population in Nepal. However, these successes didn’t come without some devastating news like the death of the last male northern white rhino and continued poaching events across the world. 2019 promises to come with its own set of successes and failures and the responses to these challenges will likely decide the fate of many species
Climate Change - Ecosystem Disturbances
Climate change doesn’t only threaten humans; it’s a severe threat to the world’s animals as well. As the environment around them rapidly changes in the face of global climate change, few species are able to adapt quickly enough to react these transitions efficiently.
Those who rely on the arctic and ice shelves of the world’s poles face are the most at risk, but this danger extends far beyond the planet’s northern and southern ends, affecting wildlife in drastic and often underreported ways.
If left unhindered, climate change may permanently alter the environments of Africa and Asia, where a majority of the world’s tigers, rhinos, and elephants reside. Higher temperatures can cause entire ecosystems to collapse when combined with severe drought or devastating storms. As humans plan for a future of mild to catastrophic climate change, the world’s species are vastly less prepared and could face dire consequences as a result.
While individuals can’t entirely reverse climate change, communities can prepare for it and build their conservation models in sustainable, environmentally conscious ways that still protect their animals.
International Politics - Threatened Global Safeguards
Whereas climate change alters the ecosystem, the world’s political leanings can have drastic effects on the safeguards and protections supporting the world’s wildlife. Faced with a more competitive global market and desire to utilize all natural resources available, some countries have begun pulling back on previous conservation platforms.
Groundbreaking conservation legislation like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna or Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity protected many of the world’s species, but international commit is waning in some areas. As the debate over how, when, and where to protect species expands to be a global discussion, the final decisions can have an exponential negative or positive impact.
Poachers and those who transport wildlife products often utilize gaps in international regulation to import and export their cargo. When doing so between countries with vastly different rules and regulations governing the sale and purchase of these products, confusion about what is and isn’t allowed can preserve the poaching market. Clear rules, intention, and communication are some of the best ways to ensure wildlife is protected no matter the country.
National Politics - Diminished Protection and Support
What happens within a country’s borders can be just as consequential as what happens beyond it. Communities that don’t support conservation and animal protections rarely develop the systems needed to live in tandem with wildlife and can even promote the destruction of these species for profit, medicine, or other cultural reasons.
For some, wildlife is perceived as a threat to a person’s self and their livelihood. Without the proper protections in place, elephants can gain access to a farmer’s crops and eat their produce. For others, these animals offer the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty and provide for their families. If no counteroffer is presented to these communities, the long-term survival of animals like tigers, rhinos, and elephants is in danger.
However, a community’s perception of its wildlife can be changed with support, education, and development. At Stop Poaching Now, we utilize our education program to help those in and beyond these communities understand the beneficial role wildlife plays in their ecosystem and their economy and how to coexist.
With the right systems in place, natural wildlife can be a lucrative source of financing. The money brought in through tourism and investments can improve the lives of their community members while also protecting the lives of the world’s most threatened species.
Human Actions and Behavior - Poaching
One of the biggest threats to wildlife in 2019 is the same one they’ve battled with in the past. Animal poaching remains a lucrative market that continues to thrive around the globe. The United Nations Environment Program estimates the illegal wildlife and plant trade to be worth an estimated $70-213 billion a year. The price for rhino horn in Asian was $60,000-100,000 per kilogram in 2013 or more than the price of gold. A Mozambican poacher can earn $10,000 per hunt and over $14,000 for each rhino horn. This potential to acquire a vast profit convince many to contribute to the poaching market, and poachers continue to develop new and improved ways to target animals.
For the world’s most vulnerable animals, poaching can be a devasting problem capable of pushing a species to extinction. Poaching and habitat loss led to the extinction of the West African black rhinoceros and Javan tigers, and hundreds more may follow suit in the next few decades if the market for poaching is not restricted.
Though it continues to be one of the biggest threats to the long-term survival of the world’s wildlife, poaching faces its own set of risks in 2019 as more and more countries move to minimize the wildlife black market. China and Hong Kong recently banned the sale of ivory products within its borders, and Taiwan and Singapore vowed to close their ivory markets over the next few years.
Animal populations have also begun to rebound in some places. The tiger population in Nepal nearly doubled over the last nine years, the Greater One-Horned Rhino Species began to grow, and the overall global rhino population continued to rise in 2018.
While this progress is encouraging, stopping poaching requires an international and local commitment to combating the supply and demand cycle that keeps the trade alive.
Protecting Wildlife in 2019
Though these problems are severe, the solutions to them are available and ready to be implemented if they have the supported they need. At Stop Poaching Now, our team of educators, doctorates, and conservation experts teams up with local organizations and communities to build long-term wildlife protections and sustainable systems. However, the fight to end poaching cannot be won alone, and the future survival of the world’s rhinos, tigers, and elephants depends on how nations and communities respond to these threats.