Exotic is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as having been “introduced from another country; not native to the place where found.”
Humans have long been interested in rare plants and animals from foreign lands across the globe. On first glance, this might seem positive in regards to long-term survival of such widely-wanted species. Corn, apples, bananas, chickens, and cows are all in high demand across Planet Earth and are found in abundance here, there, and everywhere.
Exotic organisms face a different fate, however. Since the demand for many high-profile exotic animals and plants exists because they’re rare, consumer demand increases over time, in turn fueling the increased poaching of such organisms.
It seems paradoxical that as demand for exotic flora and fauna grows, their chances of survival drops. However, this morbid fact of consumer behavior, governmental regulations, and illegal activity couldn’t be truer.
Here’s a breakdown of the various factors that collectively contribute to worsening likelihoods for the existence of exotic plants and animals.
Traditional Chinese medicine mandates the harvesting of animal parts
Rhinoceros horns, for example, have been sensationalized by traditional Chinese medicine for some years. Parts of dogs, snakes, antelopes, buffaloes, and deer have also been put on a proverbial pedestal by followers of the pseudoscientific practice of traditional Chinese medicine.
Although the benefits of acupuncture and various herbs have been demonstrated by academic research, virtually all other practices that traditional Chinese medicine identify are pseudoscientific at best.
Some species are simply rare
Not all species of plants and animals are found in abundance. Some species are simply rare. While poaching has endangered countless races of organisms, species like the American buffalo were able to fend off mass genocide by American settlers in the 1800’s; such survival was largely made possible through the extensive population of buffalo existing throughout North America.
For example, 25-30 million buffalo populated North America in the 1500s. By the time American settlers were finished with the genocide of buffalo, fewer than 100 were estimated to exist in the wild. More rare animals are much less likely to survive such hunting.
Species that are genetically diverse are better able to adapt to changes in stimuli than their non-diverse counterparts. The cheetah, for example, has low genetic diversity, and is slow to adapt to changing circumstances.