Motives Behind Poaching: Why Do Poachers Kill Endangered Animals?

Poaching is the illegal hunting, killing, or capturing of wild animals for their parts, such as horns, tusks, skins, or meat. Poachers are people who engage in this criminal activity, often driven by greed or poverty. Poachers kill several endangered animals around the world, such as rhinos, elephants, tigers, and sea turtles. 

According to poaching statistics, in protecting wildlife, almost two rangers per week are killed, 1 rhino is poached at least every 24 hours, and 35,000 elephants in Botswana are slaughtered. These numbers are shocking and heartbreaking.

But why do poachers kill endangered animals? And what can we do to stop them? In this article, you will discover some of the reasons behind poaching and some of the possible solutions to protect wildlife and their habitats. 

If you love animals and nature as much as I do, you won’t want to miss this!

1. To Eat the Animal

One of the reasons why poachers kill endangered animals is to eat them. Some people believe that eating certain animals can give them health benefits, such as curing diseases or enhancing their strength. 

Others eat them as a delicacy or a status symbol, showing off their wealth and power. Here are a few examples:

  • Shark Fin Soup: Made from shark fins, this dish is considered a luxury item in some Asian countries. The demand for shark fins drives illegal fishing practices, endangering many shark species.
  • Pangolin Meat: Pangolins, scaly anteaters, are hunted for their meat, which is believed to have medicinal properties. As a result, pangolins are now the most trafficked mammals globally.
  • Bushmeat: In Africa, wild animals like gorillas, chimpanzees, and antelopes are hunted for their meat. Bushmeat consumption threatens the survival of these species.

However, eating endangered animals is not only cruel and illegal, but also harmful to the environment and human health. Eating endangered animals is not worth the risk or the cost. It is a selfish and irresponsible act that threatens the survival of these precious creatures and our own well-being.

2. Poverty and Lack of Alternative Livelihoods

One of the reasons why some poachers kill endangered animals is poverty and lack of alternative livelihoods. They may think that selling animal parts like ivory, horns, or skins can help them earn money and support their families. However, this is not a good solution for many reasons.

First, poaching is illegal and harmful to the environment. Poaching also affects other people who depend on wildlife for tourism, food, or medicine. Second, poaching is not a reliable source of income. The prices of animal parts can change depending on the demand and supply. 

Poachers also have to pay bribes to corrupt officials or middlemen who take a large share of the profits. Third, poaching is dangerous and risky. Poachers may face violence from other poachers, rangers, or wildlife. They may also get injured, arrested, or killed.

Therefore, poverty and poaching are not good for anyone. There are better ways to improve the lives of poor people and protect endangered animals. Some examples are providing education, health care, and job opportunities for local communities and supporting conservation efforts. These actions can help reduce poverty and poaching in the long term.

3. Black Markets and Illegal Trade Networks

One of the main reasons why poachers kill endangered animals is to sell their parts or products on the black market. The black market is a place where people buy and sell things illegally without following any rules or regulations. 

The black market for wildlife is very big and profitable, and it involves many different kinds of animals, such as elephants, rhinos, pangolins, tigers, birds, and reptiles. Some people buy wildlife products because they think they have special powers or benefits, such as curing diseases, bringing luck, or showing status. 

For example, some people believe that rhino horn can treat cancer or impotence or that pangolin scales can heal skin problems or asthma. These beliefs are not based on science or reason, and there is no evidence to support them. 

It is important to understand that the demand for wildlife products is one of the root causes of poaching and illegal wildlife trade. 

4. Demand for Exotic Animal Products

One of the reasons why poachers kill endangered animals is the demand for exotic animal products. Some people want to buy things made from rare animals, such as ivory from elephants, horns from rhinos, or skins from tigers. 

They think these products are valuable, beautiful, or have special powers. But these products are illegal and harmful to the environment. They cause the loss of biodiversity, which means there are fewer types of animals and plants in the world. 

They also threaten the balance of nature, which affects all living things. By buying exotic animal products, people are supporting the killing of endangered animals and putting their own future at risk.

5. Corruption and Weak Law Enforcement

One of the reasons why poachers kill endangered animals is corruption and weak law enforcement. Corruption means that some people in power or authority accept bribes or favors from poachers to let them hunt illegally. 

Weak law enforcement means that the rules and laws that protect wildlife are not enforced properly or at all. This allows poachers to get away with their crimes without facing any consequences. 

6. Local Communities’ Dependence on Wildlife Resources

Wildlife resources include meat, fur, horns, ivory, and other products that can be sold or used by the communities. Some communities also use wildlife for cultural or religious purposes, such as rituals, ceremonies, or medicines. 

These communities may not have access to alternative sources of income or food. In addition, they may not be aware of the consequences of their actions on the environment and biodiversity. 

Therefore, they may see wildlife as a valuable asset that they can exploit for their survival or benefit.

7. Retaliation Against Perceived Threats to Livelihoods

Poachers may feel that their way of life is being threatened by conservation efforts that limit their access to land, resources, or markets. They may also resent the presence of rangers, researchers, or tourists who interfere with their activities or expose them to legal risks. 

Poachers may then target endangered animals as a way of expressing their anger, frustration, or defiance. They may also seek to profit from the illegal trade of animal parts, such as ivory, horns, or skins. 

By killing endangered animals, poachers not only harm the environment and biodiversity but also undermine the efforts of those who are trying to protect them.

8. Trophy Hunting and Status Symbol 

Trophy hunting is the killing of an animal for pleasure or competition. This purpose is to get body parts, such as heads, horns, or skins, as a status symbol or for display. Some people kill animals for sport because they want to show off their skill, fitness, and wealth to others. 

They use the animal as a prop in a photo that tells a story about their hunt. Trophy hunting can threaten the survival of endangered species, such as elephants, lions, rhinos, and giraffes. 

It can also harm the health and balance of animal populations by removing the strongest and fittest individuals that are essential for reproduction. Trophy hunting is not an ethical or sustainable way to conserve wildlife. It is a cruel and selfish practice that should be banned.

9. Ignorance and Uninformed Choices

One of the reasons why poachers kill endangered animals is ignorance and uninformed choices. Many people do not know or do not care about the consequences of their actions on the environment and wildlife. 

They may think that killing one animal for its horn, skin, or meat is harmless, but they do not realize that they are contributing to the extinction of a species. Some poachers may also be misled by false beliefs or myths about the benefits of certain animal parts, such as rhino horns or tiger bones. 

They may think that these products can cure diseases or bring luck, but there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. By educating people about the value and importance of biodiversity, we can help them make better decisions and respect the rights of animals. 

We can also raise awareness about the negative impacts of poaching on the economy, security, and health of communities. Poaching is a threat not only to wildlife but also to human well-being.

Incentives for Curb Poaching

animal poaching is illegal - biotrux

1. Importance of raising awareness and empathy

A major factor contributing to the high demand for wildlife products is consumer ignorance and empathy about the negative impacts of poaching on wildlife, ecosystems, and people. 

Therefore, it is essential to educate and inform consumers about the realities of poaching, the benefits of wildlife conservation, and the alternatives to wildlife products. This can be done through various media platforms, campaigns, celebrities, influencers, and social networks. 

For example, a study in 2016 showed that a public awareness campaign in China reduced the demand for ivory by 80%.

2. Education initiatives targeting local communities

Another reason why poachers kill endangered animals is the poverty and marginalization of local communities living near wildlife areas. These communities often lack education, employment opportunities, and alternative sources of income. 

Therefore, they may resort to poaching as a way to survive or supplement their income. To address this issue, it is important to provide education initiatives that target local communities and empower them with knowledge, skills, and opportunities. 

For example, some programs offer scholarships, vocational training, literacy classes, and environmental education to local youth and adults. These programs can help them find better jobs, start their own businesses, or engage in sustainable activities such as ecotourism, beekeeping, or handicrafts.

3. Promoting sustainable alternatives and conservation awareness

Poaching can be reduced by promoting sustainable alternatives that meet consumer needs without harming wildlife. As an example, bio-fabricated horns or bamboo carvings can mimic the properties or appearance of ivory or rhino horns. 

These alternatives can be cheaper, safer, and more ethical than wildlife products. Moreover, it is important to promote conservation awareness among consumers and encourage them to support wildlife conservation efforts through donations, volunteering, or advocacy. 

For example, some organizations offer consumers the opportunity to adopt or sponsor a rhino or an elephant and receive updates on their progress and well-being. 

4. Empowering communities for active participation in conservation efforts

This can be done by involving these communities in decision-making processes, management plans, monitoring activities, and benefit-sharing schemes related to wildlife conservation. 

For example, some programs offer incentives to communities such as cash payments, community projects, health services, or education scholarships. These incentives help protect wildlife from poachers or report illegal activities. 

These programs can also enhance the sense of ownership, responsibility, and pride among local communities toward wildlife and their habitats. 

5. Strengthened law enforcement

Finally, one of the most important incentives to curb poaching is to strengthen law enforcement at all levels: local, national, and international. This can be done by;

  • increasing the number, training, and equipment of rangers and anti-poaching units; 
  • improving the coordination and cooperation among different agencies and stakeholders;
  • enhancing the detection and prosecution of poachers and traffickers; 
  • imposing stricter penalties and sanctions for wildlife crimes; and 
  • implementing trade bans or regulations for wildlife products. 

For example, some strategies include; 

  • using drones, cameras, dogs, or DNA tests to track and catch poachers; 
  • creating special courts or task forces to deal with wildlife cases; 
  • applying shoot-to-kill policies or life sentences for poachers, and 
  • joining international conventions or agreements such as CITES to control or ban the trade of endangered species. 

These are some of the incentives that can help curb poaching and protect wildlife from extinction. However, these incentives are not mutually exclusive or sufficient by themselves. 

They need to be implemented in a comprehensive, integrated, and adaptive manner that considers the specific context, challenges, and opportunities of each situation. 

Moreover, they need to be supported by adequate funding, political will, public participation, and scientific evidence. Only then can we hope to achieve a lasting solution to this global problem.


How can individuals contribute to the fight against poaching and wildlife trafficking?

One way you can help protect endangered species is by spreading the word about the issue and supporting organizations that work to conserve these animals. 

Another way is to avoid buying products made from endangered animals and report any suspicious activities related to them to the right authorities. It’s also important to advocate for stronger laws and enforcement against these illegal activities.

How does poaching impact ecosystems and biodiversity?

When poachers kill certain animals, it can cause other animals to have too much or too little food, which can lead to problems for the entire ecosystem. 

Poaching can also make it more likely that some species will disappear entirely, which is really bad for the environment. Overall, poaching is harmful to the health and stability of ecosystems.

Are there cultural or traditional beliefs that encourage poachers to kill endangered animals?

Yes. Some communities believe that consuming specific animal parts can cure ailments or enhance virility. For instance, some people believe that rhino horn can cure cancer or act as an aphrodisiac. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that tiger bones are used to treat various ailments. 

Wrapping Up

Poaching is a serious threat to many endangered animals, such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, and pangolins. Poachers kill these endangered animals for various reasons, such as greed, ignorance, tradition, and superstition. 

Some poachers are driven by the high demand and prices for animal parts, such as ivory, horns, skins, and scales, in the illegal wildlife trade. Others are influenced by cultural beliefs and practices that use animal parts for medicine, decoration, or status symbols. 

Poaching does have far-reaching effects, not just on individual animals and their populations but also on ecosystems and local communities. A sustainable future for all depends on policymakers taking action through education, law enforcement, and conservation efforts to address this issue.

You can also learn more about how city life can help endangered animals.

Thanks for reading.