Superstitions and wrong beliefs are behind some of the most popular black market substances that form a big part of the “engine” that motorizes the poaching, especially in Africa and Far-East. Specific parts of specific animals are supposed to possess miraculous virtues that can treat lots of issues and even serious modern diseases such as asthma, cancer, or AIDS. Here are the most poached animals and the reasons why are some parts of these are bought at astronomical prices on the black market.
Some of these overpriced items are key ingredients of ancestral remedies prescribed by traditional medicines of Asia or Africa. Others are simply alleged miracle drugs invented by charlatans, experts say, at a time when scientists, meeting in Medellin, in Columbia, point to the extinction of many species, especially those species targeted by poaching.
Rhinoceros horns and bears bile against cancer
“The rhinoceros poaching crisis, which started around 2007 (…), has its origins in phony medicinal uses,” says Richard Thomas of the TRAFFIC organization.
In 1960, some 100,000 black rhinos lived in Africa. In 2016, there were only 28,000 all-species rhinos in Africa and Asia, according to a UN report. Statements of a politician extolling the anti-cancer properties of the horn would cause an increase in demand in Vietnam in the 2000s, even if, insists Richard Thomas, “it has no scientific basis “.
Other ingredients seem more effective, such as bear bile that contains an acid effective against liver disease and cancer. But for many others, demand feeds on superstitions, according to experts.
Scales of pangolins for asthma, Tokay Gecko for AIDS, and tiger bone for potency in males
The scales of pangolins, a small long-tailed anteater in “critical danger” of extinction, are sold in Asia at $500/kg against asthma or migraines.
Also, Tokay Gecko is considered to heal AIDS and the tiger bones are believed to stimulate potency in males.
“Without any scientific proof,” added Richard Thomas.
“Superstitions, traditional medicines, and viral marketing techniques are exacerbating the pressures on animal species,” says Charlotte Nithart from Robin Hood Organization, a French NGO.
Poaching is on the rise nowadays due to these superstitions and wrong beliefs and it is a market of more than $19 billion per year in profits and, along with climate change, contributes significantly at the extinction of animals.