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Illegal hunting and black market trading in wildlife parts

The second biggest threat to wildlife around the world – after habitat destruction – is hunting. Canada has several laws in place to protect its wide variety of animals but illegal hunting for the trade in wildlife and wildlife parts is still growing, jeopardizing threatened and endangered species.

As wildlife populations are depleted in other countries, poachers are turning to Canada to meet the growing demands for wildlife and wildlife parts around the world. Canada’s vast wilderness and many protected areas and parks make it ideal for illegal hunters. Although laws and regulations exist in Canada, they are poorly enforced.

In Canada, animals are illegally hunted to supply the exotic pet trade and are also killed for different animal parts for medicines, souvenirs, food, and fur. Sheep, elk, moose, deer, goats, and bears are hunted for trophy heads that sell for thousands of dollars. Deer, elk, and caribou provide fetuses, antlers, antler velvet, hooves, and tails. One of the most commonly hunted wild animal is the black bear, whose gall bladders are taken for bile used in traditional Asian medicines. Despite the fact that a synthetic version of the medicine is available, the market is still growing for the bile from black bears in the medicine. Paws of black bears are a delicacy in Asia. Seal penises are considered to have aphrodisiac powers.

Wild animals are also illegally sold to circuses and animal performers because regulations are poorly enforced. Circuses change names, locations, and acts regularly and are difficult to track, making it difficult to prevent this trade.

Around the world tourists often buy souvenirs, not always aware that they contain animal parts of endangered or threatened animals, or that the use of these parts is illegal. Ivory, reptile skins, tortoiseshell, corals, and seashells are examples of animal parts commonly used in souvenirs.

In 1975 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was formed to protect wildlife, both plants and animals, around the world. CITES is an important step in protecting wildlife but the illegal trade is still thriving in Canada because enforcement is difficult and regulatory agencies lack the resources to properly regulate and enforce trade in wildlife and wildlife parts.

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