Rising affluence in Asia encourages growth of illegal wildlife trade

+ Official Coverage on Channel NewsAsia

1 November 2012
Channel NewsAsia – Asia Business Tonight

Rising affluence in Asia encourages growth of illegal wildlife trade

It was estimated that more than 400 rhinoceros were poached for their horns in South Africa this year – a giant leap from just 13 in 2007.Rising affluence in Asia has propelled the growth of the illicit wildlife trade, as there is growing demand for animal products for traditional Asian food and medical applications. A stronger voice is desperately needed to reject illegal wildlife products to prevent further endangerment. Spire Research and Consulting was invited to share its thoughts on patterns in the illegal wildlife trade.

An estimated 800kg of illegal rhino horn has entered Asian markets; mainly to cater to the rising demand in traditional Chinese medication products. As the rhino horns were assumed to have medicinal properties, this had led to heavy poaching activities which had severely endangered the rhino species.

Moreover, with the fact that trophy hunting is legal in certain parts of Africa, poachers were taking advantage of the system to increase shipments of rhino horn for traditional Chinese medicine applications.

Leon Perera, Chief Executive of Spire Research and Consulting, shared that it was believed that the revenue obtained from these culling safaris or trophy hunting safaris could be used for conservation purposes. However, such culling and hunting activities had attracted much negative attention from the NGO community as well as Green and animal rights activists. These could potentially damage the tourism industry of the country that hosts such activities. Perera suggested that countries with endangered species should place their focus on promoting eco-tourism instead.

On a separate note, there are educational programs in the Singapore zoo to help visitors better understand the animal species and conservation efforts through experiential learning.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, groups involved in the illegal wildlife trade are tapping on Singapore’s trading hub status to trans-ship illegal wildlife products to end-use markets.

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