According to our textbook ‘The Introduction to Geography’ Hunting and Commercial Exploitation we learned that Hunting is an activity having to do with killing animals for food or sport. “Exploitation happens when hunting is over done to acquire food, hides, jewelry and trophies.” (Bjelland, et al, pg. 234). One animal that caught my eye is actually a pet I own known as the ‘Axolotl’.
Axolotls are these cute amphibious salamanders that, because of overharvesting, are mostly living and bred in captivity. I have seen these animals in different zoos such as the Portland Zoo and the Denver Zoo. Through my research I discovered that the Axolotl was only geographically located in lake Xochomilico, the lake below Mexico City. (7 Walker) They were originally located in two lakes however the other lake has since been drained. I chose the topic of Commercial Exploitation because I wanted to learn about other animals that have been exploited by humans, how we’ve exploited them as well as how we have impacted the sustainability of various animals.
To begin, exploitation is not a new concept, our species has been doing it since primitive times. According to Archaeologist Shuangquan Zhang, bones dated as old as 3.3 Million years have been discovered in China’s Ma’anshan Caves. (Zhang) These bones have been carved by our ancestors into various tools and weapons of their time. We have also discovered ancient fur clothing Neanderthals wore during the ice age that protected them from the frigid environment. Through various discoveries, we can determine that the exploitation of animals for their uses in bone tools and fur for warmth started out as a basic means of survival for our species. Though over the span of millions of years, animals have become commercially exploited due to the increase in our population around the world; particularly during the last couple centuries.
Here in the United States for example, animals such as the beaver, sea otter, alligator and buffalo were all illegally poached. This was done for the use of their fur and hides. Sea otter fur was “prized for its softness and warmth—warmest in the animal kingdom.” (Cannon) These particular animals were exploited well into the 20th century until the Endangered Species Act of 1973 went into effect. This Act provides the conservation and protection of imperiled plants, animals and their ecosystems. In the United States, over 5,000 plants and animals are protected by this act. Internationally, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has a red list that monitors over 96,000 species worldwide. “More than 26,500 species are threatened with extinction. That is more than 27% of all assessed species”. (IUCN) Through the use of education and conservation, the animals listed above have all returned from the brink of extinction to healthy populations. The Sea Otter is still threatened, but not endangered any longer.
Overhunting and poaching aren’t just local problems, it happens all around the globe. Animals are also exploited through the International Black Market. This is commonly known as Animal or ‘Wildlife Trafficking’. Trafficking “refers to the commerce of products that are derived from non-domesticated animals or plants usually extracted from their natural environment or raised under controlled conditions.” (Vié). Exotic pets such as birds, snakes, lizards, snakes and tigers are also smuggled illegally across borders.
These animals are being exploited for their rare skins, bones, ivory, horns etc. Exotic pets such as birds, snakes, lizards, snakes and tigers are also smuggled illegally across borders. They have been smuggled and continue to be smuggled in creative ways such as in luggage or confined in water bottles during transport. This Market also includes parts of animals, such as heads and limbs; and whether or not the animal is dead or alive. Some examples of this would be a Gorilla Paw and a Tiger head. Poachers find that the incentives often outweigh the fines when hunting these creatures, which keeps this multibillion-dollar industry alive. Meaning, the poacher would make more selling the item than they would have to pay if they were caught.
According to the book ‘Ivory Horn and Blood: behind the Elephant and Rhinoceros Poaching Crisis’ by Ronald Orenstein, The elephant population has declined from approximately 10 million to about 400,000. The black rhino population has declined from about 1 million to 3500. This is less than 1/3rd of one percent. These animals are exploited for their ivory tusks and horns. Ivory is used for its delicacy in intricate carvings and its pure white tint. Rhino horns have actually been used in Chinese medicine for the past 2,000 years. The rhino horn is also a symbol of wealth due to its high prices of approximately $65,000 per Kg. The average rhino horn weighs between 3-8 Kg (Poaching Facts) which equates to approximately $180,000-520,000 per horn.
To continue, poaching and the black market aren’t the only ways of exploiting animals, we also do this by overharvesting our oceans for food. It’s a well-known fact that our population exceeds 7 billion people, this correlates to our species also having a global increase in food consumption. This is seen dramatically in our oceans, particularly near japan where the waters have been dangerously overfished. According to an article titles ‘Excessive Trade’ by the Endangered Species website, “during the last 50 years, stocks of the oceans largest fish (tuna, swordfish, marlin) have declined by 90% due to overfishing.”
Also, “3/4ths of all ocean stocks are now being fished above sustainable levels (Bjelland, et al, pg. 236) There are over 18.9 million fish farmers worldwide, and 90% of them are small scale producers from developing countries. Eight out of 10 of the leading country consumers of seafood are developing countries according to the IMF and UN (International Monetary Fund and the United Nations). Until more efficient ways of fishing are found, these countries will continue to overharvest our oceans.
To conclude, hunting and commercial exploitation comes in various shapes and sizes. It began as a means of survival for our species which over time grew into the problems of poaching and overharvesting. These problems brought upon the Endangered Species Act in the United States. Animals are exploited through the black market by poachers and animal eccentrics for profit, dead or alive. Also, as our population keeps increasing, so will our demand for food sources. Meaning fish will continue to be overharvested by developing countries as we are fishing above their sustainability levels.