On the Trail n°29 – The defaunation bulletin

30 Mar 2021

On the Trail n°29 – April, May and June 2020
990 events with references, along with analyses,
iconographic documents, maps and historical archives
182 pages (pdf), 11.6 Mo

“On the Trail 29“ reflects the smuggling and poaching that affected the world between April, May and June 2020. This edition is impregnated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Smugglers and customs officers are masked. More than a hundred events analysed and reported by Robin des Bois bear the Covid-19 mark, including some bravadoes such as the “lockdown festival“ (and poaching festival) in Nagaland, a bigwig snapping his fingers at Covid-19 in Brazil while he is parading in a video cooking an armadillo in one hand with a glass in the other, or even in Argentina the ride to “experience an adventure with nature“ and break the lockdown in the company of children, rifles and 8 hunting dogs (result : 6 poached guanacos).

The effects of the pandemic on poaching and smuggling are multiple.

The long smuggling supply chains by air and sea have begun to suffer the backlash from the global logistical paralysis. The networks have broken down due to a lack of vehicles. Planners are postponing deliveries and only smuggling containers that left in March 2020 before the imposition of global immobility and the disruption of trade between wildlife resource exporting countries and consuming countries have tried their luck. A few have probably reached their destination and are still stashed in port areas if they contain non-perishable wildlife goods such as deer antlers, elephant tusks, feline bones. Destocking will come when business and bustle start again. Others easily identifiable by dog squads or even human nose have been picked up by customs.

In vast countries where north and south, east and west, are separated by thousands of kilometres connected by a complex network of rails, roads and waterways, and blocked by internal borders, the traffic in live animals or their parts has also slowed down. It is impossible to transport thousands of turtles by train or bus when trains and buses no longer run. It is likely that for a number of species that are easy to handle and transport in bags and crates, the Covid-19 can be considered as a reprieve, except that in some parts of the world such as south-eastern Asia, “stay at home order“ and the inability to move and be in contact with what remains of the wild have encouraged the purchase at any cost of urban wildlife pets, first and foremost songbirds and colourful birds.

The short smuggling supply chains within a distance of 100 to 1,000 km have rebounded as soon as commercial and industrial activities were suspended or mothballed in March/April 2020. Crowds of people left the cities to seek refuge in the countryside. In normal times, the trend is towards rural exodus, in Covid times, the turn was brutal and on all continents, human overdensity exerted unprecedented pressure on the social fabric of rural communities and natural areas. If in Paris we witnessed the flight of hundreds of thousands of well-off inhabitants whose cars were full of supplies, in Madhya Pradesh, for example, millions of workers, cousins, siblings or children, driven out of the megalopolises by unemployment and fear, showed up with empty pockets for most of them. These influxes of people on the long term have caused food shortages and the fear of being out of food. The Covid-19 has undoubtedly caused an increase in diffuse poaching for personal consumption or local commercial traffic. Traps of all kinds, including electrical and toxic ones, have proliferated. All wildlife suffers from it first and then dies, from the herbivores to the carnivores, from the deer to the tiger, from the giraffe to the banteng, from the moose to the bear. All markets are closed by security barriers except the black market for bushmeat and sea meat, including of sea birds. In these Covid times, when rural areas become havens for urban expatriates, intolerance towards wildlife is exacerbated. The lynching of leopards had reached an intolerable level of sophistication and frequency in just a few years, and it has risen a few more rungs in this quarter of the year 2020. Similarly, in Europe, the fear of the Covid-19 has not erased the obsession of wolves and bears. Hikes and other outdoor activities have been prohibited in France and other countries, but wolves, bears and birds of prey fell under the bullets of some anonymous “vigilantes“.

The closure of the tribunals and the respect of barrier gestures allow many poachers around the world to escape from pre-trial detention and be sent home until court cases resume. Health outweighs justice, with the exception of China, where trials without public but broadcast live are going ahead.

Of course, as with other animal substances, there have been timely rumours that powdered rhino horn could prevent or cure Covid-19, and rhino poaching has been on the rise again in India and southern Africa apart from South Africa.

Poaching activity in parks and other protected areas is facilitated by the absence of tourists who are normally somehow auxiliaries to the rangers, reporting suspicious presences or hidden corpses of large mammals to them.

As Professor Darimont, a conservation expert from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, summarizes: “In times of uncertainty, people are more likely to engage in illegal hunting and fishing. In fact, during economic downturns, notably during the Depression [of the 1930s], there was a lot of illegal hunting. “

As of February 7, 2020, the South China Agricultural University threw out the pangolin as the likely vector of the Covid-19 pandemic. This hypothesis, which has been unravelling over the months, has been taken up in unison by the world’s press, which has made it an established fact, or almost. As if to make amends for the blunder and to avoid reprisals against the pangolins struck by the curse, the Chinese press has since done repentance. Articles are multiplying on the touching rescues of stray pangolins by farmers, school teachers, motorists or forces of law, on the wonders of the witnesses and the affectionate releases of the survivors.

“On The Trail ” has been carried out by the NGO Robin des Bois since 2013 with the support of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, the Franz Weber Foundation and the French Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition.



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