The multi-million dollar industry that deals in endangered animals’ deaths

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Animal tradeThe murder of Cecil, a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, has stoked international condemnation; even US TV host Jimmy Kimmel has broken his comedic character, finishing his late night show monologue with a genuinely upset admonition of the Minnesota dentist, now dubbed the “lion killer.”

But the incident brings to the fore a darker issue. Endangered and protected animals across the globe are being hunted for sport and money; their habitats lack adequate oversight and, even when they are monitored, as Cecil’s death shows, hunting licenses are poorly managed.

Internationally, the hunting of endangered animals is a multi-million dollar trade. Whether for trophies, traditional medicine or luxury goods, rare animal parts can go for big bucks in black markets.

The nature of the trade is so underground that it remains impossible to accurately record its depth. However, TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring organisation, estimates that it is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Southeast Asia has long suffered this plight. The indigenous Asian tiger is classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as there are only 3,200 wild tigers left in the region – most of them in isolated northern Myanmar – and they have lost 93 per cent of their historic free range territory, according to TRAFFIC’s site.

Animals like the Asian wild tiger are facing existential threats that become even more compounded by global trade and connectivity, which help propel black market dealers’ business.

“The world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade, threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains,” the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports.

The threat to these animals is very modern. Just a century ago, there were 100,000 wild tigers in Asia; they are now extinct in Java and Bali.

A recent report by the WWF has recorded 103 wild tigers in Bhutan. It’s a small number to be celebrated, but clearly indicative of the great danger the species is in.

The hub for Southeast Asia’s endangered animal part peddlers is the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos close to the three-corner piece of land where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos touch, located near Tonpheung in Laos’ Bokeo province, not far from Chaing Rai in Thailand. It is the main market place for tiger skins and parts, as well as Asian bear, pangolins and other species. Many parts are sold to Chinese dealers, who resell the items in the mainland where subscribers to traditional medical practices highly value the rare goods. One such in-demand product is bear bile, which, as some Chinese practices dictate, should be extracted while the bear is alive.

Poor treatment of animals is a hot issue in China. The recent Yulin dog-eating festival has likewise gathered international condemnation.

International NGOs are mounted across the region to save tigers and other animals that end up in markets like the Golden Triangle. Save Our Species, for example, has funded several conservation projects engaging local communities to protect wild tigers.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The murder of Cecil, a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, has stoked international condemnation; even US TV host Jimmy Kimmel has broken his comedic character, finishing his late night show monologue with a genuinely upset admonition of the Minnesota dentist, now dubbed the “lion killer.”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Animal tradeThe murder of Cecil, a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, has stoked international condemnation; even US TV host Jimmy Kimmel has broken his comedic character, finishing his late night show monologue with a genuinely upset admonition of the Minnesota dentist, now dubbed the “lion killer.”

But the incident brings to the fore a darker issue. Endangered and protected animals across the globe are being hunted for sport and money; their habitats lack adequate oversight and, even when they are monitored, as Cecil’s death shows, hunting licenses are poorly managed.

Internationally, the hunting of endangered animals is a multi-million dollar trade. Whether for trophies, traditional medicine or luxury goods, rare animal parts can go for big bucks in black markets.

The nature of the trade is so underground that it remains impossible to accurately record its depth. However, TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring organisation, estimates that it is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Southeast Asia has long suffered this plight. The indigenous Asian tiger is classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as there are only 3,200 wild tigers left in the region – most of them in isolated northern Myanmar – and they have lost 93 per cent of their historic free range territory, according to TRAFFIC’s site.

Animals like the Asian wild tiger are facing existential threats that become even more compounded by global trade and connectivity, which help propel black market dealers’ business.

“The world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade, threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains,” the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports.

The threat to these animals is very modern. Just a century ago, there were 100,000 wild tigers in Asia; they are now extinct in Java and Bali.

A recent report by the WWF has recorded 103 wild tigers in Bhutan. It’s a small number to be celebrated, but clearly indicative of the great danger the species is in.

The hub for Southeast Asia’s endangered animal part peddlers is the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos close to the three-corner piece of land where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos touch, located near Tonpheung in Laos’ Bokeo province, not far from Chaing Rai in Thailand. It is the main market place for tiger skins and parts, as well as Asian bear, pangolins and other species. Many parts are sold to Chinese dealers, who resell the items in the mainland where subscribers to traditional medical practices highly value the rare goods. One such in-demand product is bear bile, which, as some Chinese practices dictate, should be extracted while the bear is alive.

Poor treatment of animals is a hot issue in China. The recent Yulin dog-eating festival has likewise gathered international condemnation.

International NGOs are mounted across the region to save tigers and other animals that end up in markets like the Golden Triangle. Save Our Species, for example, has funded several conservation projects engaging local communities to protect wild tigers.

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