Ben WilkinsonACE English 1010Mr. Folts1 December 2017The Illegal Wildlife Trade In the world today there are many existing problems that cause several threats to the future of the natural world. The illegal wildlife trade in Africa and around the world is a major problem causing a ripple effect to the surrounding areas and other countries. A lot of animals, like elephants, are experiencing major decreases in populations due to the illegal wildlife trade and the many markets of ivory all over the world that make the prosecution of poachers next to impossible. This trade of ivory from elephant or rhino tusks has been shown cause a great deal of damage to the environment along with the local economies and has even led many to believe it is funding terrorist organizations. The poaching of ivory-producing animals and the sale of their very valuable ivory on the blackmarket is helping to fund terrorist organizations and ruin the environment that once inhabited these creatures. The trading of illegal ivory has been around for many years, but still many places throughout Africa have been known for their constant sightings of elephants. “Every day the forest elephants convened at Dzanga Bai to drink the mineral rich waters. Their gathering in this clearing, located in a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Central African Republic, was so reliable that researchers and tourists flocked there for guaranteed sightings of these elusive cousins of the larger savanna elephants. Then, on May 6, poachers from Sudan arrived. They gunned down at least 26 of the animals, hacked off their valuable tusks and left the bodies to rot,¨ (Mackenzie). Many “safe havens” for elephants are slowly being taken advantage of by poachers spotting the easy opportunity for a kill. The poachers continue to move into these areas and take elephants because there is little to no police presence in those areas. Many of the countries involved with poaching have “toothless” laws making little to no consequence for poaching (“Illegal Wildlife Trade.”).Poaching is most popular in areas of Africa with the highest population of elephants, which connects it to the black market. Ivory crosses the borders of many countries at points like in Liboi in the southeastern part of Kenya and then is taken by 4×4 vehicles or “Somali war wagons” to many Somali markets and routes leading to the exit of the country. There, the cargo is divided into many groups and is concealed in crates of charcoal. The crates are loaded into traditional sailing vessels called dhows and are taken by boat to where they are shifted onto larger vessels and eventually carried to countries along the Gulf. The crates are then later processed and put into bigger shipments that will maneuver their way to eastern markets. As stated by a source within al-shabaab, the large vessels carrying the shipments are from Arabic, Iranian, Korean and Chinese origin (Africa’s white gold of Jihad…). Much of the ivory doesn’t leave Africa until being processed making it impossible to decipher the new ivory from the old which would allow for it to be traded in many countries with laws prohibiting the sale or trade of ivory under a certain age. Although most ivory makes it across the borders there have been Many high scale seizures of ivory. For example, “In June 2002, 6.5 tons of ivory purported to be stone sculpture were seized in Singapore after being shipped from Malawi via Mozambique and South Africa (EIA 2002; Wasser et al. 2007). This was the largest seizure since the 1989 ivory ban and the second largest in the history of the trade. The shipment included 532 large tusks, averaging at 11 kilograms. Small and medium-sized tusks were conspicuously absent,” (Wasser et al.). The constant worry of being caught does not stop many poachers because of the of the low risk of capture.Poaching has large benefits for the poacher that would significantly outway the risks leading to the continuation and growth of poaching. The illegal ivory trade in the black market has been estimated to be a $19 billion yearly market (Mackenzie). This means that approximately one kilogram of elephant ivory can cost up to $2,000 on the black market, and the same amount of rhino horn can be worth around $65,000. This is seen as good in the eyes of the poachers and pushes them to kill more and more. In addition, many markets that buy the ivory have many beliefs that the tusk of an elephant or rhino has curing abilities. For example, rhino horns and elephant ivory continues to demand high prices with consumers which has been seen in vietnam and Asia due to the recent myth that the horn of a rhinoceros can cure cancer. This has led to enormous amounts of poaching throughout South Africa and has driven the price of ivory to the point that it is rivaling gold. The illegal trading of the ivory has and will lead to more problems in the future.The illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephants is leading to many devastating effects to the surrounding wildlife, economies and has even led to the funding of terrorist groups. The surrounding wildlife in the area of poaching have been greatly impacted by the depletion of the elephant population. For example, many species that produce ivory, such as the western black rhinoceros, have been declared extinct due to the mass poaching of the animal. Wildlife in Eastern Africa has been so badly affected by the wave of poaching over the past ten years that it has experienced almost a 50% decline in the elephant population (“Elephant poaching drops in Africa”). This drastic decrease has been caused by an estimated 38,000 elephants that are being killed each year and about 104 a day (“Africa’s white gold of Jihad”). Also, every year, around 100 people and 40 to 50 elephants are killed in India (Randerson). The constant depletion of these elephants in the environment are rippling out into the surrounding communities and their economies.Many communities throughout Africa rely on the elephants for a source of income. The extinction of these animals could be devastating for many villages because a society that relies on its available wildlife to attract tourists would lose almost all sources of their income. Tourists would stop going to the places that are available to see elephants due to poaching, which has decreased populations to such small numbers creating a tourist boycott. In addition, a boycott could destroy a community because hotels, rentals, restaurants and other tourist interests would suffer and eventually close (Estrada). The poaching of elephants and other ivory producing animals is creating an economic hardship throughout tourist prevalent areas in africa.The illegal ivory trade has caused many researchers to speculate whether radicalist or terrorist groups have been using this trade as a source of income. Many terrorist organizations involved in the illegal poaching trade include the Boko Haram in Nigeria, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, al Qaeda, the Somali militant Islamist group and al Shabaab. All these groups are involved to obtain money for more criminal activity since the money is very good in poaching and the risk of apprehension and the consequences are low (Mackenzie). The terrorists organizations have been taking advantage of the insecurity and corruption in Africa. They cannot operate in the global economy because if they do so their chances of getting caught increase exponentially so they work concealed by the black market (Poe). Al Qaeda and the Somali militant Islamist group are estimated to be producing about 40% of their money from the illegal ivory trade (Mackenzie). In addition, Al-Shabaab generate between $200,000 and $600,000 monthly from ivory easily making about 40% of their income (Mackenzie). These groups work in harsh environments of being under constant watch from many governments so most other sources of income are hard making poaching and illegal ivory trade that much more important and have been found to be increasing rates of poaching due to the constant speculation of new laws. The poachers involved will eventually eradicate most of the population of elephant till they will become extinct.The poaching problem in Africa could have a simple and easy solution. A group called called Air Shepards hopes to stop poaching with drones that will allow them to pinpoint a poacher. The air shepards are in partnership with another company called the Lindbergh Foundation and are trying to raise money to put more drones into use(Fieldstadt). This company as gained much favor of multiple companies and was given a huge grant from Google and the WWF that would help cover their budget and allow them to buy more technology to help the movement to save ivory producing animals (Nuwer).The air shepard company is also investing money into other positive things within the communities affected by the mass poaching like digging wells, putting up new fences in order to keep the elephants or other animals from ruining farm land, and building community greenhouses which will reduce human elephant conflict (“Drones Now Protecting African…”). These drones would have many uses throughout the the protection and study of ivory producing animals.These drones are put into the air above the highly trafficked areas and by using infrared imaging the drone spot poachers then will send the images and coordinates back to the operator to then be sent to the nearest ranger to make an arrest. In addition, the drones and the computers controlling them are programed to study the animals which then the data from the environmental studies will be used to predict the locations of each herd of elephants each night which would show also where the poachers are because if there are elephant there are poachers (Fieldstadt). Furthermore, The software used on the drones is being developed to spot a poacher without an operator spotting them and currently is still being developed more to be able to do more and be more effective (“Drones Now Protecting African…”). The goal of the developers is to eventually eliminate the drone operator and have the computer be able to directly contact the rangers. Along with the software development the drones have gained an unexpected use. Elephants and rhinos are generally jumpy animals and are even tend to be scared of the sound of a swarm of bees. Their fear of this noise has helped in their safety the drones have been used to push the elephants away from park borders and farmland. The hum of bees and the hum of a drones are very similar which will deter them from that area(“Drones Now Protecting African…”). Many elephants roam around their reserves to find the best grazing lands which tends to lead them into farmland that is no longer in their protected area creating conflict between the animal and humans where they will be killed or hurt by the farmers protecting their land(“Drones Now Protecting African…”). So, by putting drones into that area near the farmland the operator will be able to move the herd away before it causes conflict. These drones have been used and tested with many promising results. The Air Shepherd drone program has had many successes in their testing. Since this program has started there have been over 18,000 illegal snares found, over 100 arrests of poachers and over 60 miles of new fencing put in (Nuwer). This success will continue to bring in more funding to the program. Although the drones have so many possibilites and have made many successes in use there are some negatives to the program.The Air Shepherd drone program has shown to have a few negatives. For example, the drones used are very expensive to buy and to operate because a person will have to be hired and due to this price factor many park ranger will choose the cheaper ones that won’t be as durable for the job. In addition, until the software is completely finished human error will be a problem because in many cases the operator will fly over an area but wont see a person that is there that a computer would have detected. Also, even though most of the program is well organized the scientists behind the research dont have enough information to know an accurate way to put the drones into action (Nuwer). The drone program isn’t the only program trying to bring a solution to the problem.The idea of a dye that would change the color of the ivory and would be detectable by airports was thought of by many individuals. The dye being used is similar to the ink used in banks to track money if it were stolen and would be hard to detect by the thief (“Dyeing rhino horn and elephant ivory.”). The dye would be put into holes drilled into the horn and then the dye would eventually make its way through the rest of the horn. The animals wouldn’t feel any pain in the injection processes because they would be under tranquilizers. The discoloration would hopefully deter the poachers because colored ivory isn’t valuable on the black market. The coloration should be slight enough not to hurt the animal’s ability to camouflage themselves. This dying method hasn’t been used in the wild yet due to the lack of funding and support so it hasn’t had the chance to prove its possibility for success but has been evaluated for faults with the dye.This method in saving ivory producing animals has been seen to have many faults and negatives. For example, once the dye is placed inside the horn it will take some time to make its way to the hole horn but once the dye is visible on the outside of the the horn the affected area could be easily sanded or carved out(“Dyeing rhino horn and elephant ivory.”). Also elephant horns would be able to except the dye because it is porous while rhino ivory isn’t porous so the dye wouldn’t leave the hole that it was placed in so the horn wouldn’t be able to be identified as an illegal horn (“Dyeing rhino horn and elephant ivory.”). In addition, the dye might cause them to be more visible in their environment and easier for a predator and a poacher to see hurting the population rather than helping it. The scientists evaluating this method don’t know whether the discoloration will permanently stop poachers and don’t know how the dye will affect the animal in their environment and how their health might be affected by the dyes.In conclusion, the poaching of elephants and the selling of their ivory is currently and will eventually hurt the surrounding areas and even the world. The depletion of their populations will hurt tourist dependant communities and their economies. The lower population will cause a tourist boycott because of the lack of elephant sightings in an area. In addition, poaching will cause the elephant population to decrease and almost become extinct. The population of elephant has been predicted to drop 50% in ten years bringing to their existence a short future. Many terrorist organizations have been taking advantage of the high amounts of available money in the ivory black market for their funding. These problems could and eventually might be solved through the use of drones or other methods. Drones would bring a new perspective into the catching prosecution of poachers. The illegal wildlife trade is bringing forth many problems for the future of the natural world but has a simple solution of drones use which will be an easy task for the technological world we live in today.