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Updated: Jul 10

(The Conversation, 2022)

Climate change and the illegal wildlife trade are two major threats facing our wildlife today.

When we talk about the illegal wildlife trade we mean the multi-billion dollar industry that involves the illegal harvesting, transport, and sale of wildlife and wildlife products, including ivory, rhino horn, and live animals.

This trade is having a significant impact on many of our species, driving them toward extinction and disrupting ecosystems.

Understanding the relationship between climate change and the illegal wildlife trade is crucial for us to rescue so many of our beloved species from extinction.

How are these threats related to each other?

(African Wildlife Foundation, nd.)

Changes in the distribution and abundance of species in their natural ecosystems

Climate change is affecting the distribution and abundance of many of our species, making some of them more vulnerable to poaching.

Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns are causing problems like this amongst our elephants and rhinos, causing them to frequent areas where they may be unfamiliar and more vulnerable to threats like poaching.

Our ecosystems are also no stranger to the scourge that is climate change, and since they’re where our wildlife call home any battering they take our wildlife take too.

In many places, warmer temperatures are causing the loss of coral reefs and wetlands - the list of animals and fish that call these havens home is endless.

A decrease or change in patterns of precipitation can even cause the receding of thick bushes that many of our wild species rely on for camouflage, making them more exposed to predators and poachers alike.

Increased demand for wildlife products

As people seek out new sources of food and medicine due to changes in the availability of traditional resources climate change is responsible for, so our demand for wildlife products increases.

Changes in precipitation patterns and warmer temperatures also influences the distribution and abundance of wild plants and animals, making them more valuable and vulnerable as food and medicine.

What can we do to protect our wildlife?

(Bushwise, nd.)

Climate change is a complicated problem, and complicated problems require complicated solutions - keep an eye out next month for a follow-up blog on how we can go about tackling climate change!

For now, let's look at how we can tackle the illegal wildlife trade and its detrimental effects on the survival of our wildlife.

Strengthen law enforcement

This is one of the most important things that can be done to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

Since it requires resources, it's a quick and easy way where we as the community can get involved. Check out the Wildlife Investigator's Training Alliance and United for Wildlife to get an idea of how they do what they do and how you can get involved.

By increasing funding for wildlife law enforcement efforts, allowing them the opportunity to improve training and resources and work with other countries to strengthen international wildlife law enforcement efforts, we can help them make a difference.

Reduce the demand for wildlife products

Reducing the demand for wildlife products is another important step in tackling the illegal wildlife trade.

Every single one of us needs to be aware of what we are buying, and how it may influence the species we share this planet with.

By decreasing our own individual demand for wildlife products as much as possible, we can have our own impact on the market.

Without demand, there's no supply.

Protect and restore habitats

Protecting and restoring habitats is crucial for the survival of many of our species and for reducing the vulnerability of these species to the illegal trade.

This is a particular area we’ve seen a lot of growth and improvement in over the years - have a look at our blog on Wildlife Corridors for a quick read on how we're taking small steps in the right direction.

We can also do our part by making sure that our environments are ones that cultivate wildlife and not ones that condemn it - click here for some easy tips on how to cultivate a wildlife-friendly garden!

Foster sustainable livelihoods

By providing alternative sources of income and food to communities that rely on the illegal trade, and supporting efforts to develop sustainable wildlife-based tourism and other wildlife-friendly livelihoods, we have the opportunity to make a difference here.

Although a lot of poaching is carried out with the end goal of money and status in mind, many poachers are also small-scale, local people who are simply battling to provide food for themselves and their families.

Community (n): a unified body of individuals. (merriam-webster)

It's our responsibility to support fellow members of our community wherever we can so we can stand together and be a voice for the voiceless.

If you'd like to play your part in making a difference today, please feel free to email or donate by clicking here.

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