What Is Poaching? Its Effects and Efforts to Stop It!


Poaching has a long history. Once upon a time, impoverished peasants poached wild game to feed their families. They were poaching for their subsistence. The governing nobility owned all the land and began illegal hunting and the illegal wildlife trade.

Poaching isn’t always about endangered species.

Nowadays, destitute people and for-profit thieves diminish animal populations through illegal wildlife trafficking. The illegal wildlife trade is flourishing despite laws and regulations to help protect species on the brink of extinction.

Poaching also applies to hunting during the off-season without the licensed right to do so and trade of poached wildlife.

Poaching is a crime against creatures and people. Poachers illegally shoot, trap, and take the wild game, fish, and ornamental plants from protected or private lands for their own profit. Poachers don’t care about critically endangered species or illegal hunting, even in the presence of park rangers.

History of Poaching


Poaching has always been a method for peasants and people without the means to survive. Before the 20th Century, subsistence poaching helped poor people supplement their meager diet and resources. It was often an act of desperation between breaking the law and surviving.

In Europe, the aristocracy or nobility owned all the land. They claimed the right to all wildlife. Subsistence poachers received harsh penalties when caught for stealing a rainbow trout or hare. While the wealthy feasted on wild boar, venison, and game hens, thousands of people starved. 

The nobility flaunted their entitlement, which they thought was their God-given right. They hunted deer, foxes, grouse, quail, and resident creatures for pleasure. Peasants caught with poached animals served jail time.

As forests fell to development and farming, new laws to benefit the remaining landowners and their greedy families saw to it that exclusive rights stayed with the rich. To protect the land and abundant wildlife, wealthy families hired game wardens to protect and control the restrictions.

However, hungry people seek desperate measures to fill their bellies. Wars of organized poachers against gamekeepers during the 18th and 19th centuries often ended with catastrophic results and injuries. Likewise, Mantraps and hidden spring guns had a detrimental effect.

It’s difficult to blame subsistence poachers for taking what wasn’t theirs. Constant hunger and no means of circumventing or improving one’s opportunities would drive anyone to seek desperate measures and live off poached goods.

Modern Poaching

poaching definition

Modern poaching and the motivation behind poaching have little to do with the impoverished hunters of the past. Most modern poachers kill, trap, or fish illegally for profit or amusement, harm large quantities, and damage many species.

Modern poachers often contribute to the illegal trade of vulnerable fauna and flora sold at black markets. Sometimes the animals are sacrificed and killed. Other times these creatures are traded and auctioned as illegal pets.

Poaching statistics show a massive threat to wildlife already on the brink of collapsing. This type of poaching often occurs in protected wildlife reserves or national parks.

Poachers trespass onto protected areas like Sub-Saharan Africa and harvest endangered animals. These prized wild animals end up as trophies on a wall or, worse, as wildlife products.

Many animals die while only a tiny part of their body has a black market value. There is a huge demand for tusks, gallbladders, animal bones, and body parts sold at high prices for art or for medicinal purposes, or as aphrodisiacs. Is one rhino horn worth illegal killing such a significant beast?

Poaching occurs worldwide. Poachers take many species for personal gain and don’t care. They’re perhaps taking the last of its kind. One of the biggest problems facing wildlife in national parks or wildlife reserves is that there aren’t enough resources to guard these significant habitats. 

On continents like Africa and South America, it’s difficult to enforce regulations and patrol massive terrains without ample local support. The effects of poaching on an ecosystem are devastating.

The rhinoceros and African elephants face a dire future unless we stop poaching. Although ivory tusks and rhino horn products are illegal in most countries, including China, it hasn’t curbed the black market.

The Bengal tiger in India is treading the thin border of extinction. Likewise, the Central African gorilla has little chance of surviving the barrage of hunters that hunt it to extinction. Coupled with habitat loss, these endangered animals are fighting to survive despite all governments’ efforts to preserve them.

It’s difficult to fathom what those hunters think will happen to the species. Unfortunately, the hunters’ insatiable greed and the consumer of endangered animal goods have no qualms about satisfying their desires without any thought to consequences.

natural resources defenition

Some humans greedily consume the meat and organs of pangolins, crippling eight species of these scaly anteaters. While pangolin scales are highly sought after for traditional medicine, they’re now on the list of critically endangered mammals.

One has to remember that poaching involves the person taking the animal alive or dead and the consumer on the other end. Many cultures trade heavily in the medicinal or cultural influences of these animals. It’s up to society to define the crime punishable for such deeds.

Parrots and tropical fish survive in captivity as pets. The illegal parrot and bird trade is approximately $7 to 23 billion of untaxed money. According to PETA, poachers rob the environment of nearly 30 million marine life animals annually to pleasure people.

Wildlife service and conservation groups combat this major threat, but still, the pet trade thrives.

Since poaching has no barriers, poachers also steal plants to profit. Valuable trees like rosewoods, mahogany, carnivorous plants cycads, cacti, and orchids are illegally harvested.

Legal Aspects

poaching meaning

Poaching is a serious threat to the survival of our existence and the world. Biologists and conservationists fight a constant war to protect environmentally delicate areas. Removing one animal or plant species from a bio-diverse area leaves a giant hole in the fabric of life of the natural order.

Since 1998, environmental scientists from the University of Massachusetts have fought to declare poaching as an environmental crime. While the tremendous effort of these people is admirable, it often falls on deaf ears. Poaching had a beginning centuries ago, but now it has no end.

  • Every week rangers die while protecting wildlife
  • Trafficking wild species is a lucrative $7-23 billion dollar business
  • 100 million sharks die for their fins
  • A rhino dies every day
  • 35,000 elephants died in Botswana yearly from poaching
  • 30,000 green sea turtles die in Baja California from poaching

Laws exist to deter poachers. They’re not working to protect any species or fragile ecosystems.

Poaching In Different Countries

Poaching is something that is happening worldwide, making it a huge concern.

what is poaching animals


Hunting and poaching laws have dominated many discussions across Austria and Germany. Older Germanic laws once allowed peasants the right to hunt until Roman laws changed in favor of rulers. Many changes occurred over centuries, but none successfully protected wildlife from poachers.

Modern hunting rights favored land rights, but the invention and accessibility to rifles shifted the entire landscape in favor of poachers again. Hunting and poaching are also deeply intertwined in culture to this day. Poaching and hunting also appear in music, literature, and art themes.

United Kingdom

Poaching and smuggling also dominate epochs in English history. Poach is derived from the English word pocchen, meaning bagged. As in… the poacher carried the dead animal away in a burlap sack. 

William the Conqueror enforced laws to protect game stock and their environment from ordinary people and granted hunting rights only to the aristocracy. 

Poaching is also romanticized in British folklore and literature, like in Germany and Austria. Hunting scenes are prevalent themes in art. The notorious fox hunt is an ongoing debate but with some restrictions still legal.

North America

poaching definition geography

It shouldn’t be surprising that poaching in the USA led to conflicts between heavily armed poachers and the law. Some of the most famous include the Oyster Wars and seal hunting.

If you happen to read the Department of Justice documents, you can learn about USA poaching and hunting laws and protect innocent critters and plants.

Poaching violations in the USA include hunting, killing, and collecting animals that are listed as endangered.

The following crimes are also considered poaching:

  • Hunting or fishing without proper licenses
  • Hunting during off-season
  • Using prohibited weapons
  • Hunting from a vehicle or aircraft
  • Scouting game from the air
  • Killing an animal while trespassing and exceeding one’s bag limit
  • Shooting an animal in a confined space


poaching in the USA

Watch any animal documentary filmed in Africa, and you’ll get an education on the survival of elephants, rhinos, lions, monkeys, apes, and other exotic animals. You’ll also meet courageous people who put their lives on the line to intervene and maintain hunting regulations.

Wildlife conservationists and gamekeepers strive to protect animals. But, of course, the flip side of the coin comes at the expense of indigenous people.

In Africa, the ivory trade feeds an insatiable high demand for luxury goods, according to National Geographic, from China’s up-and-coming middle class. The indigenous suffer the consequences and face hunting restrictions.

Effects of Poaching

Poaching has no end. Despite efforts and laws, poaching continues to endanger animals, plants, and tree species. While not all poaching concentrates on rare or vulnerable animals, it continues to harm wildlife and their environment and affects our natural resources.

Population Decimation

what is poaching

Poachers don’t give a (insert a swear word). Poaching takes a massive toll on native species and their survival. Taking an animal out of an ecosystem also endangers other animals within that habitat. 

Although humans forget this rule of law, we all belong in the circle of life. When poachers take out one animal in the loop, they offset the balance. Animals face enough environmental hardships, poachers tip the scale, and more animals suffer.

Conservationists in Africa are not winning the war against poachers. Poaching has seen a massive increase since the 2000s. Poachers killed 90 percent of the elephant population between 2011 and 2015.

In the early 1900s, several million elephants roamed in Africa. Today, there are only 400,000 despite all the efforts of anti-poaching laws. Poaching also affects African lions.

As a result, lions are now “vulnerable to extinction.” As of 2017, wildlife conservationists believe there are as few as 20,000 lions left. 

Although poaching is a crime against animals, it also affects innocent people who give their lives to guard animals. Poaching produces killers. Since 2009, 871 rangers have died at the hands of poachers while protecting wildlife populations.

Enjoy your bloodstained ivory ornament or aphrodisiac people. You’ve become an accessory to murder.

Global Health Risk

Poaching is a crime against humanity. Poachers rob us of animals and put us in danger by transporting wildlife carrying harmful pathogens into our cities.

While these pathogens have always existed, they’re now sold in open markets in our city. Poachers are spreading viruses and dangerous pathogens without our consent.

Common Animals

illegal hunting

There are many names for poachers, and none of them are pleasant. However, they accurately describe how vile these human beings are. For many animal lovers, saving these protected species becomes a personal fight.

The other misconception about poaching is that we think it happens in foreign countries like Africa and to threatened species like elephants and rhinos. But it happens on our turf too.

Poaching includes moose, deer, lobster, salmon, or other wild animals off-season or protected from illegal hunting.

In Florida, a mini lobster season is an event. It invites locals to catch lobster. However, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers measure each crustacean in the bucket. A lobster must meet the strict size rules and not be larger than 3 inches. Anyone breaking the law faces severe fines and penalties.

poaching definition hunting

Hunting Versus Poaching

Only some people appreciate hunting. Hunting is a way of life for many indigenous communities. It’s done with the utmost respect for the animal and the gift of food it provides.

Hunters work within the laws that define hunting regulations. Most hunters follow the hunting regulations during the seasons set out by their state. 

Hunting, unlike poaching, is seen to help balance animal populations. Hunting is also a popular sport and requires a license. Hunters aren’t using prohibited weapons or poaching animals.

Anti-poaching Efforts

is poaching illegal

Thousands of people work tirelessly in dangerous situations to end poaching. But, unfortunately, millions of animals die yearly because of greed, and let’s call it what it is “the stupidity of humans.” 

Owning a body part of a dead animal is wrong on so many levels. No one is arguing that ivory cravers have immense talent. One has to wonder how people who don’t give a proverbial (insert swear word) about sharks, elephants, monkeys, and birds sleep at night.


No doubt, authorities in Africa work hard to end poaching and trafficking. But 35,000 dead African elephants still feed the ivory tusk train in Asia. Those carcasses are challenging to hide even in an immense landscape or jungle. 

Rhino Rescue groups have devised an ingenious system to inject a mixture into the horn of rhinos that is bad for the consumer. Advances in DNA tracking are also helping to track poachers.

animal poaching

Despite ivory being banned since 1989, the business is ongoing. Economic circumstances help drive the illegal business, and International Anti-Poaching Foundation resorts to military tactics to fight poachers.

Luckily, these organizations have access to unmanned aerial vehicles to assist in the hunt for illegal game hunters who don’t have shooting rights.

Tanzania, Botswana, and Namibia enforce shoot-to-kill measures on poachers. These strong tactics have helped reduce poaching. Kenya is ordering the death penalty for poachers, as fines and stiff prison sentences failed to deter poachers. 

Many human rights organizations lament these strict and deadly rules. Sadly, no one is going after the end user. 


Education has to win out over antiquated beliefs eventually and help prevent poaching. Thousand of elephant tusks are destroyed to protest poaching and remove ivory from reaching consumers on the other end.

The Philipines set the tone and destroyed their ivory stock. China crushed six tons of ivory in a gesture to stand against poaching. Many experts have theories on how to reduce poaching and save wildlife.

Notable people believe that engaging local communities to protect wildlife within their country is an essential first step. 

The second is to end the Jones Effect. People become consumed with owning status symbols that their peers own. Reducing consumer demand and changing consumer mindset are monumental tasks. Others believe in encouraging would-be poachers to find other jobs.

Spokespersons who can reach a specific demographic or culture can shift the tide. People often follow role models who speak out. Targeted television and advertising campaigns are an effective way to make an impact and drive change.

Although some efforts are bringing a change, rhinos are still in crisis. Despite a ban on rhino horns in the 1970s, as recently as 2019, officials confiscated trafficked horns in the United Arab Emirates.

Human rights activists also face an uphill battle. Many poachers come from poverty-stricken countries. Some see a solution in bringing everyone together to combat poverty and poaching.

North America

Technology is a vital tool in tracing poaching activity. Robotic decoys are just one way for game wardens to lure and catch criminals. The Marine Monitor Radar System is another method that tracks illicit fishing boats for suspicious activity in protected areas.

Final Thoughts

Poachers not only break the law. They also threaten the delicate balance of ecosystems and destroy the biodiversity that others fight to protect.

Poachers often trade in rare animal products like an illegal harvest of elephant ivory, rhino poaching, and tiger parts in a prohibited manner. They sell animal products stolen from private property.

Thousands of people worldwide join together to support animal cruelty laws in order to stop animal testing and put their own lives at risk. Those people are heroes. The other side of the coin begs the question, why do people abuse animals for their gain? The answer traces back to money. 

It’s challenging to tackle such a topic as poaching without offending someone. When you speak of animal cruelty and people who continue to profit from it, they are bound to get aggrieved.

Everyone can contribute to making changes. Support organizations that work diligently to make a difference. Don’t scoff at them; they’re doing the best they can. Now it’s your turn.

This article tackles a little snapshot of animal facts about poaching and animal abuse. It would take an entire collection of books to detail all the senseless harm we unleash on animals, domestic and endangered.

Monika Martyn
Monika Martyn is a nomadic minimalist and published author. Her pet portfolio includes experience with over forty cats and dogs, and she becomes their surrogate and a valued pack member. One of her proudest accomplishments is typing while petting a fur baby on her lap. She also excels at dog-speak and cat-talk and is working on mastering fish lingo. Aside from her animal advocacy, she is passionate about the environment, plastic pollution, and living with less (not including chocolate and coffee). She practices yoga and meditation faithfully. She’s experienced living abroad and believes that together people can evoke change for the better. Or at least be kind to one another despite our differences. She has an uncanny knack for remembering people’s names. She’s proud of her two Pushcart Nominations, her debut novel, and her marriage. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. Monika believes that education is the biggest gift to humanity at any age.

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