In the days when buffalo still roamed the plains freely, they were viewed as sacred by the Native Americans. Though they hunted the buffalo, they thanked them for providing them with clothing and nourishment, and a sense of respect prevailed over their harvests.
While there is no need for such harvests in developed countries, especially with the constant threat posed to a majority of animal species, hunting still takes place on a large scale.
With animals often hunted not for the survival of human predators, but to be used as trophies and a means of commercial trade. Many times these trades are conducted illegally.
What’s worse, the business of selling animal parts is sustained by millions of average consumers and tourists, who may not think twice of what their money is enabling. To further complicate things, the hefty earnings made from the illegal killing and trade of animals has lead those involved to rely on it as the central means of income for themselves and their family.
The consequences of trophy hunting have included the endangerment of some of the world’s most incredible and recognizable animals. According to bornfreeusa.org, the population of African Lions has been reduced by 48.5 within the last 22 years. A major threat and contributor to this loss is the importation of lion parts to the U.S., who is the largest importer of lion parts in the world.
And they’re certainly not the only species to suffer from trophy hunting and trade, as our oceans are currently being depleted of sea turtles. Oddly, these creatures, who are a favorite attraction among tourist, fall victim to being hunted and sold as “souvenirs”.
At present, six of the seven species of sea turtles are at risk of extinction. This is largely due to illegal poaching, which threatens all seven, as well as habitat loss. Sea turtles are most often poached for their meat, eggs, and shells. The latter used to make trinkets, sunglasses, dishware, and other commercial gimmicks used to entice the spending of tourists, who all too often believe they are receiving a sacred souvenir rather than taking responsibility for their part in the death and illegal earnings that result from what seems a casual transaction between a vendor and unsuspecting foreigner.
The lack of enforcement is a also a problem. In some cases it can be nearly impossible to track illegal sales, especially those conducted across borders. However, if the public was better educated and refrained from taking part in this trade, the market would be lost and the activities would cease.
To better inform the public and discourage illegal trade, tourist industries need to encourage activities that allow visitors to view and, if appropriate, interact with these animals instead. Certainly most people would rather swim with a sea turtle than purchase a bowl made from its shell. Meanwhile, the hunters themselves must accept that they are part of dead ended business, as their methods for earning money will only lead to the extinction of their product’s source.
At the moment, we are still far from bringing these trades to justice. Though conservation programs are beginning to take root, which in addition to preserving animal populations, will provide more income to communities than illegally acquired tourist money.
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