What Animals Are Being Poached in Africa?

animals-being-poached-africa Credit: David Cayless/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

As of 2014, the main animals being poached in Africa are rhinoceros and elephants. Other animals being poached in lesser amounts include lions, leopards, baboons, elands, impala, bushbuck, reedbuck, kudus and warthogs.

Rhinoceros-horn powder is valued in Asia as a status symbol, a party drug, a cure for cancer, and a remedy for hangovers and the common cold. As of the end of 2013, a pound of rhinoceros-horn powder was worth over $40,000 on the black market, far more than 24-karat gold or even cocaine. In South Africa, which holds most of the world's rhino population, almost 1,000 rhinos were poached in 2013. Elephant ivory is similarly prized in Asia. The tusks of a single elephant command prices that are 10 times the average annual income of a working person in many African nations. Typically, the elephants are slaughtered, often by poison, the tusks are cut off, and the carcasses are left to rot. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, or CITES, more than 20,000 elephants were poached in Africa in 2013.

According to CITES, the key factors ascribed to the high levels of poaching in Africa are overwhelming poverty, weak law enforcement, high levels of corruption and the great demand for materials such as elephant ivory and rhinoceros-horn powder. Though more seizures of ivory shipments occurred in Africa in 2013 than ever before, enforcement continues to be a serious problem. Poachers are highly organized, with military-grade weapons and transportation, and law enforcement officials are overwhelmed.