Important Ecosystem Services

The depletion of megafauna such as elephant and rhino can significantly impact ecological processes involving vegetation, hydrology, nutrient cycling, and firebreaks; which in turn have detrimental cascading effects on other species.  Poaching not only threatens elephant and rhino populations, but also many other living processes that are part of the same ecosystem. These animals are the architects of the landscape, ecological engineers that create conditions essential for the survival of numerous other species.

By browsing trampling and toppling trees they open up glades, vital for small herbivores, and create space for predators to hunt.  Elephants enlarge waterholes and during the dry season they dig to expose underground springs; thereby enabling smaller animals to access the water also.  Nutrients and seeds (some of which have no other means of dispersal) are transported and fertilised in their dung; and the likelihood of major bushfires is reduced through the consumption of twigs and leaves that would otherwise accumulate on the ground and potentially add fuel to a fire.

In addition to the profoundly negative impacts for endangered species, ecosystem stability and biodiversity, the illegal trade in wildlife also leads to civil conflict and the exploitation of institutional weakness.

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