Lack of economic opportunities and desire to provide for families were some of the reasons that led poachers to get involved in illegal wildlife trade, said a new report released on Thursday.
The report — “The People Beyond Poaching” by TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organization working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, interviewed over 70 poachers in South African prisons about their involvement illegal wildlife trade.
Most of the interviewees were convicted for rhino poaching, and others for abalone and cycad-related offences.
“More than half of the offenders said they participated in the initial stages of the supply chain-specifically the poaching of the wildlife. Other activities included the transport, processing and storage, recruitment of others, and the sale of the wildlife commodity to buyers,” the report said.
Richard Thomas, head of communications at TRAFFIC, said the king pins behind the crime were not being prosecuted.
“One of the take home messages is that those inside are the bottom rung of the poaching trade chain – the under-privileged and on low-income,” he told Xinhua.
One of the offenders interviewed in prison said the need to assist his family led him into this illegal trade.
“Yes, I was fully aware that my decision was illegal, but I was encouraged to take the risk in order to make ends meet for my family,” the offender said.
The report said there was a need to address the lack of opportunities in communities which were at risk of being exploited by poachers.
“There is a need to engage these communities as equal partners in identifying and defining solutions and interventions to prevent and combat engagement in illegal activities,” said TRAFFIC researcher Moneron Sade.