Atavistic beliefs in the curative properties of animal parts are driving numerous species extinct.
Tigers, rhinos, sun bears, pangolins and a myriad of other critically endangered “exotic” animals are routinely poached worldwide for the silliest of reasons. That reason is that many people continue to believe that potions made from bear bile or tiger bones or rhino horns or pangolin scales possess magical curative properties.
They also continue to believe that talismans made from iconic animals’ teeth or claws or pelts provide magical protection against the arrows of misfortune.
Both sets of beliefs are, of course, sheer nonsense. And yet many people from Africa to Asia carry on believing them. And when there’s a market for rare animal parts, many unscrupulous and greedy people will be all too happy to supply those parts, even at the cost of driving entire species extinct in the wild.
There’s little that we can do with ruthless poachers and wildlife traffickers except go after them with zeal and throw the book at them when they’re caught so as to try and deter others like them. Hence the need for stringent wildlife laws and their rigorous enforcement.
But what about the seemingly insatiable demand for exotic animal parts? Atavistic beliefs in the curative properties of their body parts continue to drive numerous species extinct. Unless that demand is tackled at source, the fight against wildlife traffickers will always remain a rearguard action. We need to educate people about the folly of driving tigers, rhinos, sun bears and pangolins extinct just because magical properties are attributed to these animals as if they were fairytale creatures with awesome powers like unicorns.
Here is another suggestion: apothecaries in Africa and Asia that peddle “traditional medicines” should be required by law to prove the proclaimed curative virtues of their ware in proper scientific settings. If they fail to comply or else fail to demonstrate those medicinal properties satisfactorily, they should be obliged to face serious legal consequences for being proven charlatans.
That might give them second thoughts about perpetuating old myths for financial gain.