Anti Trophy Hunting
UWO Gazette -
Vol. 92, Issue 68.htm
Gazette File Photo
THE RESULTING CARNAGE OF THE ILLEGAL TRADE OF ANIMAL PARTS. This
mountain gorilla killed by poachers was one of many killed for tourist
trade of gorilla heads and hands.
By Ciara Rickard
Though its necessity has long since waned in most areas of the Western
world, hunting has remained a favoured sport practiced by many in modern
society. While there are laws monitoring this activity, there is still a
great deal of illegal hunting which goes on in Canada and around the world
in order to feed a market which craves various animal parts.
Some statistics show poaching has had a devastating impact on animal
populations. While some uses of it are medicinal, some are served as
delicacies and some of the uses are seen as entirely frivolous.
"Any poaching is not legitimate," says Anthony Marr, biodiversity campaign
director for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee. "It's big business,
just second to the drug trade and often connected to the same people.
Wherever there is a demand, there will be a supply."
Marr has spent a great deal of time and effort trying to educate people
and the government about the ill consequences of poaching and the
importance of maintaining animal populations. At greatest risk in Canada,
he says, are the black and grizzly bears, which are hunted primarily for
their gall bladders and their paws.
"We estimate that about 22,000 to 29,000 black bears are killed per year,"
Marr says. "That's out of a population of about 400,000, so that's about
12 per cent. That is not sustainable. They can't reproduce quickly enough
to maintain the population."
Liz White, a director for the Animal Alliance, points out how these
numbers may not be accurate. Because poaching is an illegal activity, no
one knows about it and therefore no one can know the actual number of
bears dying each year.
"The paws are a delicacy in Asian cultures," Marr says. The gall bladders,
also for the Asian market, contain cholic acid derivatives, which are
considered very valuable and effective medicine by Asians. Though there is
a synthetic process to create the same chemicals, most Asians will still
opt for the medicine from the bear.
"Tradition has a powerful sway over people's actions," Marr says.
"Traditional medicine has a mixture of medicine and mystique."
The market for most animal parts is centred in Asia where tradition
dictates what is the best cure for a variety of ailments. The reason there
is so much poaching in Canada is because Asian bear populations have
already been depleted from hunting, so they've had to go elsewhere, Marr
says. He is also quick to point out that not all Asians use medicine or
food containing bear parts.
"It's a different cultural attitude in Canada than in Asia toward the use
of animals," White says. "Asians are horrified by the fact that we hunt
bears to wear their skins – they'd never do that. But they see nothing
wrong with killing the animal, eating it and using its parts for various
Bears aren't the only animals at risk. Seals in Canada are hunted for
their penises as they are considered to have aphrodisiac powers, White
says. Tigers are also hunted for this purpose.
"There's a growing push for aphrodisiacs from tusks, bones and seal
penis," White says. "Some people have joked that Viagra will be the
salvation of the animals."
However, not everyone considers this aspect of the illegal trade of animal
parts to be particularly serious.
"The people who use it [aphrodisiacs made from animal parts] are mostly
fringe groups, so animal groups don't consider it a threat," says Julie
Thomson-Delaney, project leader for the wildlife trade program, at the
World Wildlife Fund.
"I can't even say whether it actually works," she adds.
According to Thomson-Delaney, the real threat is the demand for animal
parts for medicinal purposes, for which not only bears are a target, but
also tigers and seahorses.
"As far as western science is concerned, they are legit medicines and do
work," Thomson-Delaney says. "The problem is with populations – there's
just too many people putting pressure on animal populations."
It has been widely publicized that elephants, rhinoceroses, gorillas, deer
and musk deer are just a few examples of animals who have been and are
still being illegally hunted for various reasons. Rhino horns are used to
carve daggers in Yemen and are also used in East Asian medicines.
Elephants are still being poached for their ivory tusks, used in jewelry
and other decorative pieces.
"Sometimes it's for something really asinine, like gorilla paws for
ashtrays," Marr says.
Such novelty items, as well as gorilla heads, were sold to tourists in
great quantities during the 1970s and helped deplete the mountain gorilla
population, says Jennifer Toth, executive assistant at the Dian Fossey
"It was really bad back then because people were killing them left, right
and centre," she says.
The mountain gorilla population now sits at 650, though most of the
poaching has ceased as a result of the establishment of stricter laws, in
which primatologist Fossey played a key role. Fossey's murder at the hands
of poachers is testimony to the seriousness of the issue.
Marr has also faced much opposition in his quest to end poaching and
hunting for sport. He has gone on tours around the province of British
Columbia giving talks on the ills of poaching. Still, hunters and poachers
were always following him wherever he went.
"Whenever they knew I was coming to a place they would show up in force –
maybe 100 people," Marr says. He claims there were usually about 20
supporters at the talks. "They try to be very intimidating, very rough and
abusive. Sometimes I can't finish my presentation. I always try to have
"Quite often at the end as I was leaving, they'd be standing in the form
of a wall between me and my car, so I'd have to walk right through them,"
Marr recalls. "I've even been chased on the highway."
There was one incident in January 1998 where Marr was attacked by a hunter
or poacher. It occurred after an evening at his parents' home when he went
to his car to return home. He says the attacker punched him in the face a
few times and left, muttering something about the attack being a warning.
"That attack was an isolated incident done by someone on his own," Marr
says. "The 'hunter fraternity' have tried to get people to not commit acts
Some of those involved in recreational hunting are also very much against
poaching. Terry Quinney, provincial co-ordinator of fish and wildlife
services for the Ontario Federation of Hunters and Anglers, says his
organization is involved in laws preventing poaching and penalizing those
who break the poaching laws.
"The fees we paid for [hunting] licences go directly to the government to
pay for the laws," Quinney says. "We're also involved in a province-wide
anti-poaching campaign through Crime Stoppers that helps catch poachers."
Though there are laws in place to protect vulnerable wildlife, it's
difficult to enforce them in Canada's vast wilderness, where there is much
space and not enough enforcement officials.
"Personally, I believe that there's really good legislation in Canada and
the [United States], but it's not properly implemented," says Andrea Gaski,
director of research for TRAFFIC North America. "I guess they don't
consider poaching of high priority."
Environment Canada is in the process of drafting regulations to help cut
down on foods and medicines containing parts of animals which are not
legally allowed to be used, Thomson-Delaney says.
Many of these animal parts find their way into Asian-Canadian communities.
A restaurant in Brampton was recently fined for serving bear paw soup,
"We need to target people who've been doing this all their lives and see
nothing wrong with it," White says. "If we can change their minds we have
a fighting chance – otherwise we're going to lose [endangered animals]."
Asian countries have been relying on these medicines for centuries so to
them it's completely normal. However, this market is growing rapidly and
the animal populations on which they prey are depleting rapidly.
According to White, the goal is to change perceptions and show people the
effects of their reliance on animal parts. If consumers' attitudes are
changed, he explains the poachers will be out of business and there may be
a future for threatened wildlife.
Gazette File Photo
GETTING CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE. This male Rwandan mountain gorilla was
killed during a period of civil unrest, his death harming an already
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