More than 100 million sharks are killed and 4,000 elephants are poached in Africa every year
Environmental crimes are on the rise, especially those related to wildlife and timber trafficking, which represent the fourth source of criminal income after drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that more than 4,000 elephants in Africa are poached for their ivory alone. And estimates show that over 100 million sharks are killed each year, or an average of over 3 sharks every second. Incredible figure!
This animal genocide results in the extinction of protected animal species. Indeed, 17 species, including elephants and sharks, are killed and sold, among others, for their meat, fins, ivory, to make furniture or musical instruments, to serve as pets or to enrich a collection.
According to the IUCN, approximately 60% of sharks are currently threatened with extinction. It is a very bad sign for the oceans, as the disappearance of these top predators will have serious consequences for marine ecosystems.
In November of last year, the countries of the world were proposed to decide on the inclusion of porbeagle sharks in CITES Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, at the suggestion of Mexico. In this new red list, six species are classified as “critically endangered”, including three for the first time. Sharks face the threat of extinction, falling victim to the human appetite for flesh and fins.
Sharks, like elephants, are particularly affected by habitat destruction, poaching and overfishing, which deprives them of some food sources.
Human development of coastlines, marine pollution and destructive fishing methods all affect the natural marine habitats on which shark populations depend for their survival. Added to this is climate change, so we owe huge changes that are already altering the distribution of the species and its prey. White sharks are hunted all over the planet not only for their meat. Oil is also made from its liver, its skin is made into leather for shoes, bags or purses, and its teeth are sold to tourists in the form of necklaces.
Elephants are also being culled in parts of Africa to manage herd sizes and maintain reserves. As part of a deliberate policy, the number of annual culls varies from year to year, but probably exceeds 500 per year.
For example, there is an ongoing conflict between some African countries and CITES over whether or not to resume ivory trade. Those in southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, are seeking permission to sell ivory stocks to fund policies to protect endangered species. The thirty other countries that are part of the coalition for the African elephant do not want to listen at all and demand the strictest ban on the trade in ivory for all the countries of the continent.
In 2021, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which assesses the probability of the species’ survival, has reduced the savannah elephant living in southern Africa from “vulnerable” to “threatened”. The forest elephant, which spans the Sahelian belt and the Congo basin, has been classified as “critically endangered”.
In Togo, the elephant population suffered in the 1990s, pressures resulting in the invasion of animal parks for human purposes, which destroyed the relationship between elephants and people. However, there are elephants living in Fazao Malfakassa Park and others in Djamde. Those in Djamde do not live in their natural environment.
However, awareness sessions on the conservation of endangered species, including elephants and sharks, are often held. Also, the authorities have suspended the registration of fishing vessels and the issuance of fishing licenses to foreign vessels. Several Togolese-flagged vessels were deregistered on suspicion of illegal fishing in the waters of other countries.
Even international organizations, including EAGLE-Togo, support the authorities in protecting endangered species. It was under this order that five traffickers were arrested on August 26 and 27, 2022, while trying to sell two large ivory tusks in Sokode. In Lome, on November 12, 2022, three human traffickers who illegally kept, circulated and sold two large ivory tusks in the peripheral district of the capital were also arrested.
Ending the slaughter of sharks and elephants, prized in Asian medicine for their so-called aphrodisiac qualities, remains in the equation. To be sure, countries including Togo have texts that punish traffickers of protected species, but the illegal trade in parts of endangered species is still on the rise.