Blog Connections

WHS affected by Poaching

Last week, 3 foreigners accompanying an anti-poaching patrol in Arly NP in Burkina Faso were murdered. With the focus of the jihadist killers on the white people within a larger group, this does look like a terrorist act.  However, it also highlights the issue of poaching as they may not have liked the international attention for their illegal activities in the region and the park. I have used this tragic act for a refreshment of 2 connections on our website: “Poaching” and “Rangers killed by Poachers”.

Poaching as a threat

According to the IUCN Outlook 2020, poaching is the number 1 threat to natural WHS in Africa and Asia and the 4th overall. The COVID-19 pandemic also causes an increased risk of poaching, as in-person staffing is reduced and illegal activities can flourish.

So far we only had 6 sites in our Poaching connection, but I got 52 hits on a text search for “poaching” on the UNESCO website. After some further scrutinizing, using the UNESCO documents and the IUCN outlook reports for the individual sites, I was able to extend the connection to 39 WHS. Notable additions include Okavango (hunting of giraffe for meat), Saryarka (reducing the numbers of the endangered Saiga antelope) and Lake Turkana (for bush meat and trophies (zebra)).

It becomes clear that poaching does not only cover the hunting of iconic threatened mammals such as elephants and rhino’s, but also illegal fishing and shooting of birds. It is sometimes the result of encroachment and low-level substinence hunting by local people. In other cases international criminal organizations are behind it.

In Danger due to Poaching

9 WHS are currently placed In Danger because of Poaching. These are:

Looking at the seriousness and high occurrence of this threat you’d expect more of these to come. Strong candidates are Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng (tiger), Mt. Nimba, and Air and Teneré (gazelle and ostrich) – some of these sites have been hardly monitored during the past decade in the WH lifecycle and lack data from Periodic Reporting (should be every 6 years) or SOC reports.

Rangers killed by Poachers

There are good news stories as well – anti-poaching measures have brought things under control in Chitwan and Ujung Kulon for example. At other locations, park rangers or members of anti-poaching units find themselves in the frontline against sometimes heavily armed poachers:

  • Garamba NP: in 2017, 2 rangers were killed during a fire fight with poachers who were cutting up a recently slaughtered elephant
  • Serra da Capivara: also in 2017, a ranger was killed when he was ambushed by armed men who were hunting illegally
  • Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng: 2 rangers killed in 2013 by poachers who "admitted killing and eating several adult gibbons, and were planning on selling the baby into the pet trade" 
  • Kaziranga: 1 killed by rhino poacher in 2015 and others before (the site is also known for its ruthless killing of poachers by rangers
  • Virunga: 19 killed in 2020-2021 and many before

Els - 2 May 2021

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