Poaching of wildlife- practical solutions
Tuesday, October 30, 2007 5:42:33 AM
There are all sorts of reasons why it doesn't work. Partly it is a very expensive approach. It costs the state a lot to detect poachers and smugglers, bring them to justice, prosecute and imprison them. Most poachers and 'mules' are typically low income people who can't be fined at a level that deters.
Other reasons is that it is typically associated with bans. And bans on harvest mean high black market prices. Sure, the idea is that demand will be reduced because consumers will feel bad about consuming the product. But this would be reflected in collapsing wildlife prices. High black market prices mean demand has not been stigmatised. And it ensures organised criminal networks now have the payoff they need to get involved.
Expecting somewhat corrupt, inefficient and poorly resourced law enforcment agencies in the developing world to stop wildlife crime, is a concept so breathtakingly stupid in its grandeur and conceit, I wonder how connected to reality these advocates are.
So, it is with interest I got the following story. Seattle Times link. Even accepting the errors that inevitably appear in such stories, it makes several damn good points. Positive incentives to reduce poaching are cheaper and more effective than the 'big stick' law enforcement approach. And if you don't have any idea at what drives the wildlife market, stopping poaching is going to be fraught with problems.
For example, I don't care whether tiger-bone cures severe bone diseases or not. The only thing that matters is that enough Chinese believe it to wipe out wild tiger populations several times over. People aren't paying $US50k for a tiger to cure laziness or impotence. They pay those sorts of prices if the product is a highly addictive drug, or has a reputation for a unique pharmacological effect. Tiger bone is believed to cure bone diseases, and there are enough people suffering from the symptoms of these illnesses to take the risks and pay the price to get it.