iIllegal wildlife trade (IWT) also known as wildlife trafficking or smuggling refers to the illegal trade, poaching or smuggling of non-domesticated animals or plants, usually from their natural environment or raised under controlled conditions. It equally involves the illegal collection of endangered species either living or dead or their body parts.
At the core of IWT is the rapid demand for a variety of products around the world especially in the orient, for various ornamental and medicinal purposes. IWT is a leading threat to global biodiversity. It endangers not only large mammalian species but several other “small” terrestrial and aquatic organisms as well as plant and fungi species.
These organisms regardless of their physical attributes and habitat play important and quite often irreplaceable roles in ecosystems all over the world.
The following are some repercussions of IWT;
Wildlife trafficking, especially with the existential challenges of habitat degradation and climate change, threatens species’ survival. It also limits the range of functions and processes that these species provide in their ecosystems.
IWT often results in the overexploitation of wildlife. It is widely accepted as a pervasive and targeted driver of biodiversity loss globally. The IUCN Red List considers overexploitation as the most prevalent threat facing threatened and near-threatened species that have been evaluated (primarily vertebrate species).
Although IWT is traditionally narrowly framed as a conservation problem, it has cascading impacts on ecosystem functions and processes that affect the climate. Wildlife trafficking can be linked to climate change, considering the complex relationship between biodiversity and climate change.
This implies that biodiversity, especially flora, offers vital ecosystem services including acting as a carbon sink thereby forestalling the climate change process. As such, biodiversity loss encourages climate change. Other repercussions of IWT include:
Damage to the environment
Wildlife trafficking results in harm to individual plants, fungi or animals. This often results in a reduced chance of species survival. A reduction in the survival probability of critically endangered species at the local-level population can have implications for overall species survival.
Also, the harm done to public ecosystem goods and services can have a negative impact on human well-being. This is largely owing to our reliance on these services for survival. It can lead to the loss of future forest structure and community, reduced ecotourism revenues and potential tourism. It can also lead to losses of scientific research potential.
Loss of economic advantage.
Reduced local tourism arising from the loss of attractive forests, the prime of which are the large trees, can have a significant impact on the local economy leading to a loss in revenue.
This revenue loss is not felt by the locals but by the National government. The government usually bear the brunt of reduced national park revenues and taxation from timber harvest alike.
This can equally have consequences at both state and international levels by building up a bad governmental reputation. It can be seen to have occurred as a result of a government’s inability to maintain its protected areas. It also alludes to a government’s inability to control illegal activities.
Source of funds for organized crime.
Environmental crime is now the world’s fourth-largest crime sector. This is driven by international criminal networks. These include drug cartels, money launderers and terrorist groups. They engage in the trafficking of high-value natural resources including wildlife to support their criminal ambitions.
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