Crouching Tiger, Hidden Trafficking: Asia’s hunting problems

When people think of poaching, their first thoughts tend to be focused around Africa and the issue of poaching animals such as elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns respectively. Poaching Wars, A Far Off Place, and Virunga are excellent films focused around the absolute horrors of poaching. focusing mostly on Africa. Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom has the Kilimanjaro Safari in its Africa section, a fun safari ride that once had an anti-poaching subplot on the trek. However, a new hub for poaching and its impacts is actually Asia. Asian countries have seen a rise in illegal trafficking of poached animals or animal parts, as well as the issue of dangerous hunting tactics in the area as well. Yet, Animal Kingdom’s Asia just seems to be a place to see a fake Yeti machine. There simply is not enough awareness to spur activism. Not yet, at least.

Part of the poaching problem is illegal trade from Africa, so the focus on African poaching isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Rather, it is important to broaden the scope from Africa to see their flow into Asia. Nations such as Thailand and Vietnam have seen a rise in trafficked ivory from Africa, coming from nations such as South Africa. These materials are usually then trafficked north to China, where a legal market for ivory has existed for quite a while. However, this legal trade is coming to a close. The Chinese government enacted a ban on its domestic ivory trade, effectively making the selling of ivory illegal in an effort to reduce poaching. This does not mean it will be 100% successful, as there will likely be a black market for the existing demand for poached goods.

However, poaching within Asia itself is also a large problem. The World Wildlife Fund identified the three main species being poached in Asia as tigers, Asian rhinos, and Asian elephants. Once again, it is extremely difficult to actually enforce bans on poaching or trafficking, as black markets will be created to produce a supply for the demand in these countries. However, it is a good sign that nations such as Thailand and China are cracking down on legal markets, as well as the actual enforcement that we seen in countries such as Vietnam.

At the end of the day, however, poaching isn’t the only problem with the hunting practices of Asian countries. The island nation of Japan continues to kill massive amounts of whales in their annual whaling hunts (over 300 whales in their 2017 expedition), a practice that the Japanese government has created legislation to protect. Poaching is the illegal hunting of certain species, and what the Japanese whaling community is doing is far from illegal by their government’s laws. This ends up creating another problem that the international community must deal with, struggling to emphasize international protection with sovereignty of Japanese enterprises and civilians. All in all, Asian nations will continue to grapple with legal and illegal hunting, even in light of growing legislation and enforcement.

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