Protect Me/Poach Me

Here is a fascinating article in the current Scientific American on the impact endangered species listing can have on black market demand.  The conclusions are consistent with my own experience.  In one instance, for example, I was with a breeder of Burmese Mountain Tortoises (manouria emys) when she heard the tortoise might be upgraded to CITES I, ie, to critically endangered status.  She was ecstatic about the effect the upgrade would have on her sales (and prices), then paused to tell me that really, as a conservationist, she shouldn’t think that way.  Everything in this article may well be true, but what is the alternative?

Endangering Species: Listing Can Make Animals Valuable Black Market Commodities

By certifying species as endangered, government programs can backfire

By Wendy Lyons Sunshine

Through most of the last century, Javan hawk eagles (Spizaetus bartelsi) flew unnoticed through the dwindling forests of Indonesia’s principal island of Java. Their prominent head crest and multi-toned plumage didn’t attract attention, bird markets didn’t sell them, nor did zoos have them on display. Then in 1993 the Indonesian government awarded Javan hawk eagles special protected status. That’s when the bird’s fortune turned—for the worse. 

To celebrate the raptor’s official “National Rare/Precious Animal” designation, the Indonesian government printed the Javan hawk eagle’s likeness on postage stamps and phone books. Soon zookeepers and illegal pet collectors were clamoring for one of their own, and the birds began… Go to the Full Article.

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