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Declining Wildlife Can Lead to Conflict and Despicable Crime

Jul 26, 2014 02:06 PM EDT

Child and slave labor, military aggression, and profiteering have all been found to arise from declining animal populations, especially in the underdeveloped countries. Now experts are claiming that the "unprecedented loss of wildlife" seen within the last few decades is ushering in new conflict and human tragedy.

Late last June, United Nations investigators and INTERPOL released a new report at the United National Environmental Assembly that details how the prevalence and profitability of environmental crimes has seen a dramatic rise in the last several years.

Now research promoted by the Wildlife Conservation Society has found that these crimes and the violence that stems from them is directly related to the notable drop in biodiversity and individual animal populations seen across the globe.

"Wildlife loss is widely viewed as a symptom of social unrest and injustice; we show with this work that is often the source of these social outcomes," research lead Justin Brashares said in a statement. "As such, wildlife management should be a central element of efforts to mitigate conflicts as seemingly disparate as child slavery, ivory trafficking, and piracy."

According to Beahsare's study, wild animals directly support an estimated 15 percent of the world's peoples and provides food for more than a billion of the world's poor. With a great number of species across the globe slipping into decline, the authors argue that crime and conflict will rise.

"Unsustainable human exploitation of wildlife populations does not have singular effects on ecological integrity, but rather has far-reaching consequences that lead to the instability of our health, livelihoods and national security," said co-author Chris Golden.

According to Golden, the collection of thinning resources is leading to a sudden spike in need for labor, which in-turn promotes the child labor industry. As animal populations drop, their value increases, enhancing the profitability of poaching and illegal trade. Vigilante groups are also common products of declining wildlife populations.

These groups, which start with the admirable intentions of defending species their respective governments cannot protect, often slip into more thuggish roles over time and contribute to violence.

These observations and others are detailed in a study published in the journal Science on July 25.

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