Culture also plays a role. Many wild animals in Southeast Asia are considered delicacies or are thought to have medicinal values. And many people in the region would rather eat wild than domestic meat. In some countries, the ability to buy wild species raises one’s social status.
Harrison and his team contend that the bulk of hunting in Southeast Asia is actually for domestic consumption, rather than international trade. Sure, some animals are transported from rural areas to nearby cities, but most are not going over borders.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t professional poachers targeting animals such as tigers or pangolins for international trade. But the authors assert that the bulk of hunting is by rural people looking to bring something wild home or to sell in the local market.
NO FOREST TOO REMOTE
All this is occurring at a time when infrastructure and other development projects have bulldozed into most of the remote forests of Southeast Asia.
While road building in rainforests has long been criticized for promoting deforestation, it also creates much greater access to forests for hunters.
In Southeast Asia, new highways, logging roads, and plantation roads have infiltrated many remote areas and are allowing easy access for anyone with a motorbike. Large infrastructure and commercial projects –- such as dams, mines, and plantations –- are also bringing workers into remote areas.
Recent research has shown that Earth's forests are not only shrinking but also becoming increasingly fragmented and infiltrated by people. Core forests are vanishing, in large part from rampant road building and other infrastructure projects.
Experts estimate that by 2050, nearly 25 million kilometers of paved roads will be added to our already road-ravaged world. We'll see 60 percent more roads than we had in 2010, mostly in developing nations with high biodiversity and numerous endangered species.