Poachers have developed a new tactic for tracking down valuable and rare species for sale on the black market. Poachers have begun to use academic articles that discuss the discovery of new species or the sighting of endangered species all over the world. Sightings of new or rare species are an exciting event for scientists, and papers that are up for publication and peer review often contain location information about the species in question.
Poachers have begun to use this information to track down rare lizards, frogs and snakes in the wild that they can sell on the black market or exploit for other purposes. Academics have now started to omit the geographical information from their articles in order to protect endangered species from exploitation. For example, a recent journal article published in Zootaxa describing two new species of the genus Goniurosaurus omitted the location information in order as a protection strategy.
Poachers have a competitive market for which they can sell these prized species when they have tracked them down. Rare lizards, frogs and snakes are considered novelty pets in many parts of the world for buyers who can afford them. Academics will make the location information of the animals available on a government database which is available for other scientists to reference if needed.
Trends in wildlife trading on the black market have existed for many decades, and species are traded all over the world. With the advent of publically traded data on wildlife species, poachers can pinpoint exactly where to look in order to be the first on the scene of a new species discovery.
Poachers can often get away with trading species around the world because of lax international laws and inconsistent conservation practices. A lack of cooperation between international scientific and conservation organizations also attributes to the success of poaching in certain regions.
Environmental crimes like black market trading of rare and endangered species is a serious issue that affects more than a few locations around the world. Academics are doing what they can to make sure they are protecting the species they are researching from poachers and others who seek to exploit vulnerable populations of animals on Earth.
- Poachers using science papers to target newly discovered species, The Guardian, January 1, 2016.
- Sensitive Data Access Restrictions Policy for the IUCN Red List