Did you know that some plants and animals can be traded legally? Their trade is regulated by an international convention that most countries are a party to, called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). However, many species are traded illegally, and that threatens many endangered animals, from elephants and pangolins to sharks and turtles.
#WhyItMatters As the coronavirus pandemic has shown us, trade in animals and animals parts, especially live animals, can have seriously catastrophic effects on humans. On the other hand, the trade in animals’ parts can devastate animals’ populations.
Take for example elephant ivory. In 1989, a global elephant ivory ban was enacted and African elephant populations—which had reached historic lows—were finally able to bounce back. Unfortunately, years later, as these animals were still recovering, a one-off sale of elephant ivory opened up the market and illegal traders saw their chance to make money. Some countries then began to allow for a legal domestic trade (meaning, trade within their own country) of existing ivory. This loophole allows for illegal traders to sneak into the market with newly poached ivory. So really, the only way to protect elephants from ivory poaching is to shut down the trade entirely. No one-offs, no domestic trades.
How can you help?
Make better consumer choices.
What each of us consume contributes to the global demand for goods. If billions of people stopped consuming things that are harming the planet, then rainforests would not be decimated to make way for agricultural expansion, oceans would not be overfished, waterways would not be poisoned with waste from power plants, natural carbon stores and critical habitats would not be disrupted.
If you’re not already using reusable goods, get on it. Plastic straws ought to be replaced with stainless steel versions; tampons and pads can be traded for a lunette cup; cloth diapers and glass storage containers can replace single-use or plastic versions. Even more, phase out of plastic packaged goods — from food wrap to toiletries to cleaning supplies — and choose package-free or bulk items. Shop at farmers’ markets and secondhand stores.
Commodities like beef, soy, palm oil, and timber are taxing on the planet, notwithstanding the losses incurred by local and indigenous communities that are ousted to make way for large-scale production. Lowering or eliminating consumption of these commodities in our lives are some of the biggest impacts we can have.