The Poaching Dilemma

Tiger walking into waterhole. Shot in Tadoba tiger Reserve, Maharashtra, India.

Today, the world’s wildlife is facing diverse threats like habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change. Solutions to address them are highly debated among conservationists.

Poaching remains a significant peril, wherein wildlife is captured or killed for commercial purposes. Illegal global trade of wildlife products like traditional medicines, showpieces, bush meat etc. flourishes today. Therefore, many see this as a lucrative livelihood. (Understand the phenomenon here)

Male Asian Elephants in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala.
Male Asian Elephants are targeted by poachers for their ivory tusks, which are used for making showpieces.

I grew up being passionate about conservation issues. My emotions for the relentless slaughter led me to advocate the harshest punishments for the culprits as a deterrence. I opposed those who argued for lighter sentences. I refused to accept other environmentalists’ ideas, those unlike mine, seeing them as one-sided.

In discussions with an expert, I understood that those indulging in poaching are often desperate due to extreme poverty. Some are evicted from their homes in wildlife habitats and not compensated adequately. They have lost crops to animals and, consequently, been pushed to starvation. This exchange led me to reflect on the morality of my opinion. 

The human-wildlife conflict impacts many people living on the periphery of wildlife sanctuaries. Farmers suffer significant losses from cattle predation by felines. They poison the carcasses in retaliation, a crime that may lead to a 5-year jail sentence. 

It’s a lose-lose situation. A sustainable conservation model should accommodate their grievances. 

The greater one-horned rhinoceros in a water hole at Kaziranga Tiger Reserve.
The greater one-horned rhinoceros is poached for its horn which is falsely believed to have medicinal properties.

Addressing these issues would curtail poaching significantly. Remunerating families affected by wildlife, educating their children, acknowledging and alleviating their miserable predicament could mitigate the problem.

Understanding this aspect was my wake-up moment. Due to my sense of privilege and my blinkered sensitivity towards critical conservation issues, I was blind to the people’s plight. I condemn such crimes, but I also think a permanent solution should involve communities impacted by the laws prescribed to protect wildlife. 

Sure, I  have my viewpoint, but I realise it’s as noteworthy as that of the person next to me. I should campaign for my beliefs but hearing others exposes me to perspectives that could benefit me. I needn’t compromise my core values, but refusing to listen to others can hinder my growth. 

Today, we’ve become incredibly critical of others’ beliefs and viewpoints. Rarely do we pause to reflect on our opinions and thought processes. 

When passionate, we lock horns with others who feel differently, branding them as ‘close-minded’. Adopting the tolerant approach now helps me engage in meaningful dialogues and conversations. 

We must curtail poaching by providing the poachers with an alternative source of income. We must educate those who purchase wildlife products and fuel this trade. We can come to a solution only if we stop pointing fingers at one another.

A little acceptance can go a long way.

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am an 18 year old, based out of Bangalore, India.

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