Wildlife trafficking will resume after Covid-19 restrictions are removed as too much money is involved: Report
There’s too much money to be made from these products, and there are too many people involved for this to have a significant long term impact, says an expert
The pandemic has brought the world to a standstill, thanks to restrictions placed on travel. And this is hurting illegal wildlife trade too - albeit temporarily, claims a new report.
“There’s too much money to be made from these products, and there are too many people involved for this to have a significant long term impact,” Sarah Stoner, a co-author of the report and director of intelligence at the Wildlife Justice Commission, told The New York Times.
Increased border restrictions are keeping traffickers from delivering illegally poached wildlife. But they have enough items in their possession, says the organization that aims to clamp down on illegal trade. In the first three months of 2020, the Wildlife Justice Commission was offered more than 22 tonnes of pangolin scales for sale in Vietnam, according to the report.
One trafficker reportedly told an investigator posing as a buyer, “When the border situation clears, I will contact you. This situation makes it hard to do business.” Another individual said they could not get transport products, citing heavy security at borders.
The report contains conversations the investigators had with about 20 traffickers based out of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, India, and Mozambique.
From the interactions, they learned that traffickers were hoarding large quantities of raw ivory in Vietnam, Lao PDR, and Cambodia because they could not transport them to China.
They continue to stay active
Trafficking has slowed down temporarily. But illegal trade will bounce back when authorities lift restrictions, the report warned. Alternatively, they could adapt and find alternative means of transporting poached items.
In fact, some of them are already trying to stay afloat. “We are tracking significant amounts of new trafficking activity in multiple countries, which seems to indicate that traffickers are both still very much in operation and also actively seeking ways to adapt and thrive in the new normal,” Tim Wittig, the head of intelligence for United for Wildlife, a nonprofit led by Prince William to fight wildlife trafficking, told The New York Times.
In March, custom officials seized 11 rhino horns at a Vietnamese airport coming from South Korea. Then through March and April, Chinese authorities caught large shipments of rhino horns and pangolin scales crossing China from Vietnam by land.
Further, many experts have expressed their concerns over increasing poaching incidents during lockdowns. Park closures, reduced patrolling in protected areas could drive poaching.
In fact, in Africa, many poachers are actively entering parks and protected areas during this time. “Just as soon as the lockdown hit South Africa, we started having an incursion almost every single day,” Nico Jacobs, founder of Rhino 911, a nonprofit, told The New York Times.
According to experts, the time is ripe for acting against trafficking. The pandemic has exposed the dangers of wildlife trade. “Traffickers are currently constrained and suffering like the rest of us, and if we take what is an extraordinary opportunity to exploit those vulnerabilities, we can make huge inroads in ending the illegal wildlife trade. We have an opportunity to win here," Dr. Wittig added.