Two Animals, two controversies

TIGERS

Tiger reintroduction, strategical mistake or stroke of genius? As recently as 1999—that is, 18 years ago, Cambodia was home to one of the world’s largest tiger populations. Today, the species is functionally extinct in this country. The last verified sighting goes back as far as 2007, when an Indochinese tiger was caught on camera trap, roaming through the jungle of Mondulkiri. The overall decline of tiger worldwide is staggering, WWF estimates that the population has gone from 100,000 wild individuals, to only 3,890 remaining today, just over a hundred years later. Experts have said that habitat loss; poaching, rampant corruption and lack of proper law enforcement are likely to be at the root of this loss. However, there has been a new plan to reintroduce tigers into the Cambodian landscape, drafted jointly between WWF and the Ministry of Environment. This project seeks to mirror a successful similar endeavor in India. This plan, however, has been raising some serious concerns amongst the scientific community. As John Goodrich, a senior director at Panthera, eloquently puts it “if you want to reintroduce any animal, you have to first solve the problem that caused their extirpation or extinction”, which has not been the case here in Cambodia. Poaching, illegal logging and corruption remain key challenges for the country’s success in conservation efforts. Tigers need prey, habitat and they need to be left alone; can the current Cambodian landscape really provide all these elements? These are questions worth asking when examining issues of conservation. 

ELEPHANTS

Did you know that on average, poachers kill one African elephant every 15 minutes? Experts go as far as estimating that about 80% of Africa’s elephant population has been lost in a short ten-year period. In some countries of Africa including Senegal, Somalia and Sudan, elephants have already been driven to extinction. Most elephants are being poached for their ivory. Organized bands of illegal poachers will go in groups and use Ak47s as weapons, and sometimes even make use of helicopters to target the elephants from above. This practice is not only damaging to the elephants and other wildlife being poached, but rather it extends to the rangers protecting the park with an estimate 1,000 rangers who were killed protecting wildlife, in the past 10 years. The illegal wildlife trade is rampant, and it has become the fourth most lucrative transnational crime business, shortly beneath drug, arms and human trafficking. A recent 2013 study estimates that illegal poaching in Africa is worth as much as $17 billion US dollars per year. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has agreed to ban international Ivory; however, it seems the ban is not sufficient. Wanting to help in a simple way? You could start by signing the Bloody Ivory petition that 57,181 people have already signed, which seeks to reject any future proposal for ivory trade and support protection of the elephants. 

Author: Anna Chahuneau 

Anna Chahuneau