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The Value of Wildlife

Globalization and economic growth are causing an unprecedented surge in poaching activities worldwide. Can policy changes and grassroots efforts help save threatened species?

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Poachers killed around 22,000 African elephants for their tusks in 2012—and 25,000 the year before that. With an estimated 500,000 elephants remaining in the wild, that’s almost 10 percent of the total population slaughtered in just two years.But while elephants may be among the most recognizable casualties of poaching, they are among many species facing a catastrophic decline as the worldwide demand for wildlife products has soared.Rapid globalization has created new economic opportunities for billions of people in developing countries, and with those new opportunities have come aspirations for a better life—aspirations many are pursuing through the illegal trade of wild animals and their body parts, notes Douglas MacMillan, a resource economist at the University of Kent in England.“I don’t think conservationists have caught on to this,” he says. “People want to turn animals into money. This is not subsistence activity or people with nothing else to eat; people want their kids to go to school.”At the same time, the increased spending power of rapidly growing economies in Asia, and shrinking stockpiles …

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