Monday, 7 October 2013

The new criminals of the Tropical World

Today, despairing news that rhinoceroses will be extinct by 2022 (in eight years) if current poaching rates continue is saddening but revealing.

The article reveals how the demand for rhinoceros horn is coming from a small group of nations in tropical and subtropical Asia which are regarded as newly industrialising: Vietnam, Thailand, China and Taiwan. In all these nations, rhinoceros poachers maintain very strong connections with governments and as these nations become richer, rhinoceros horn has become a symbol of the “nouvelle riche”who are growing in number even with below-replacement fertility. Its symbolic status is probably be increased by the fact that Thailand and more recently Vietnam once had rhinoceros populations of their own, so that previous generations could have used rhinoceros parts before African horn was ever shipped to Asia.

The business skill of East Asians means that the number of rich could grow very rapidly in the future. Whether or not there is a poor underclass there is the likelihood the rest of East Asia's populace will envy them enough to wish for it themselves rather than understand the fragility of African ecosystems. Notably, the megafauna of East Africa serve to raise the rainfall at which soil fertility peaks from 800 millimetres (32 inches) up to 1200 millimetres (47 inches). If rhinoceroses go extinct this extinction could affect the potential numbers of other species.

In a sense, the problem with rhinoceros poaching is similar to the lenience with which the Enriched World treats Australia's and South Africa's greenhouse gas emissions, inasmuch as solving both problems is dependent on a change of ways from politicians in the rest of the world.

Compared to its greenhouse gas emissions, however, wildlife poaching in the Unenriched World is easier to stop because its source is completely external: there is essentially no local demand for rhinoceros products in South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana or Namibia. Thus, if we isolate those nations buying rhinoceros horn, there is some hope that the problem could be stopped. However, as with the Unenriched World's ecological record, what to do to make rhino horn importers change their ways is another question: it could so easily create more problems.

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