According to a new policy paper led by UC Berkeley researchers, published in Science, worldwide decline of wildlife populations may be directly linked to increases in conflict, organized crime and child labor. The policy paper, shows how wildlife decline leads to food and employment losses, thus resulting in a higher risk of violent crimes, including human trafficking. The paper authors note that wildlife decline also helps foster political instability. Lead author Justin Brashares notes, “Billions of people rely directly and indirectly on wild sources of meat for income and sustenance, and this resource is declining. It’s not surprising that the loss of this critical piece of human livelihood has huge social consequences. Yet, both conservation and political science have generally overlooked these fundamental connections.” The paper points to some detrimental situations taking place globally, including how children are being sold to fishing boats and forced to work 18- to 20-hour days at sea for years without pay because when wildlife declines, it takes more labor to hunt animals down, and kids, especially trafficked kids, are an exceedingly cheap labor source.

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The paper also notes that the rise of piracy and maritime violence in Somalia has occurred mainly because of fights over the right to fish certain waters. Brashares states, “Surprisingly few people recognize that competition for fish stocks led to the birth of Somali piracy. For Somali fishermen, and for hundreds of millions of others, fish and wildlife were their only source of livelihood, so when that was threatened by international fishing fleets, drastic measures were taken.” The authors further commented on how wildlife poaching has become comparable to drug trade, due to the high prices luxury wildlife goods, such as elephant tusks and rhino horns, capture on the market. Because poaching is worth a massive amount of money, the act has attracted guerrilla groups and crime syndicates worldwide. Clearly with the world population growing, there’s no easy solution to these problems. More people equals less wildlife, equals more crime, and on and on it may go. The authors recommend that experts such as economists, political scientists, criminologists, public health officials and international development specialists work together to come up with collective solutions to tackle this complex challenge and especially work on increasing conservation efforts globally and locally. Paper authors also suggest facilitating local government management techniques that help control growing crime problems.

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Lead image: (UC Berkeley ) Wildlife Decline Triggers Child Labour and Political Instability, Study.