Skin and Bones

Unravelling the Illegal and controversial industry that threatens global biodiversity.

Banking on Extinction

The 30th of November marks the Remembrance Day for Lost Species aka World Extinction day. 

According to researchers the Earth is losing approximately 12 species a day, 1'000 times the baseline rate as we enter the sixth mass extinction event this planet has faced.                          'Well then why does it matter, animals have been going extinct for thousands of years, what makes these extinctions any different?'             Well unlike any other historical mass extinction events, there is only one species that is responsible for the current extinction catastrophe, Homo sapiens.

But, nobody wants to see an animal go extinct, or do they? What if there are people in the world buying up stock of exotic wildlife products for that exact outcome, what if traders and consumers were even 'Banking on Extinction'? 


J.A. Mills, author of Blood of the Tiger, which details her 20-year career investigating wildlife crime, has noted that one of the major driving factors in the illegal wildlife trade  is now China's "uber-elite who are investing in these items as as a new asset" similar to those investing in precious metals or fine art. 

The idea behind the buy in is that when a species goes extinct its parts and product will skyrocket in price, economically a successful investment although a tragic downfall for the ecosystem. This also represents a market trend, a shift from consumers buying medicines and products for health reasons to one of wealth for pure economic gain and to show status.
 

"Tiger-bone wine has medicinal use, but at current prices, they don't buy it as a medicine. They buy it as a way to bribe officials." Grace Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.


Although this means that the larger and rarer items, such as elaborately carved elephant tusks, an unmarked tiger skin or a full gall bladder from a brown bear, can only be purchased by the ultra-rich elite, they are not the only items on the black market. Smaller items and trinkets are increasingly found and purchased by a growing middle class. A growing population equals a growing problem for wildlife where consumers vastly outweigh supply, even buying smaller items the effect of an estimated half a billion middle-class consumers adds up.

'Banking on extinction is the newest, most deadly threat to the survival of wild tigers and other endangered species', an extinction timebomb, which can spell tragedy for the environment. 

Below Skin and Bones remembers iconic species already lost:  

 

The West African black rhino was declared extinct in 2011. 

The Thylacine aka the Tasmanian tiger, in 1982. 

The Pyrenean ibex (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica) was a subspecies of the Iberian wild goat that went extinct in 2000. 

The Quagga (Equus quagga ssp. quagga) was a subspecies of the common plains zebra and a native of South Africa. Known for its unique stripes, the Quagga was hunted for its hide and killed by ranchers who believed the animals competed with livestock for grazing area. The last known Quagga died at the Amsterdam Zoo in 1883.

Last seen in the early 1950s, the Caribbean monk seal (Monachus tropicalis) was declared extinct in 2008, after being hunted and exploited for their fur, meat and oil. 

The Javan tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. sondaica) was a tiger subspecies became extinct in the mid-1970s, 

The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) was a flightless coastal bird from the North Atlantic, declared extinct in 1844 partly due to over-harvesting for their down.

In 1914 the last passenger pigeon, named Martha, died in the Cincinatti zoo.  The story of the passenger pigeon's went extinct.

The last Rabbs fringe linked tree frog, died in 2016 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. 41% of Amphibians are threatened with extinction, making them the most at risk group of vertebrates  

 

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