Project Dakota Flyer, an operation set up by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the US, has been investigating the illegal selling of eagles and other protected birds in South Dakota.
Eagle parts such as wings, head, feet and feathers are often illegally sold on the black market. This commercialisation of protected birds for the economic gain of illegal traders goes against the safeguarding of species such as the bald eagle and the golden eagle.
Bald eagles were removed from the Endangered Species act in 2007 after intense population management resulted in a flourishing increase in the bird of preys population. This increase was due to the banning of the pesticide DDT which contaminated the birds prey, resulting in a great decline in population.
Both the golden eagle and the bald eagle are protected by federal laws in the US to help prohibit the possession, use and sale of eagle feathers and parts that have been illegally obtained through means of shooting, poisoning, capturing and killing. Such restrictions have been put in place to allow the population of both species to remain stable and ensure their future in the wild.
Although it is possible to apply for eagle parts from the National Eagle Repository, a government run organisation, the demand for eagle parts greatly exceeds supply. Unfortunately, many applicants may wait years and instead turn to illegal commercialisation on the black market.
The demand for these eagle parts greatly lies with Native Americans, who fashion them into regalia for tribe leaders while other parts are worn by other tribe members. Particularly, tribal leaders often carry staffs mounted by an eagles head to show their status within their tribe. Talons are often used in the Sun Dance ritual, a ceremony held by Native Americans to symbolise healing, whereby members of the community would act as a sacrifice by piercing their skin with eagle talons.
Unfortunately, the illegal trade of endangered species is not only a problem amongst Native Americans, but is a problem worldwide.
There is a large demand in Asia for the ivory tusks of African elephants, which has lead to a surge the poaching of these elephants. Since 1979, the population has declined by 50%, leaving a total population of 415,000.
The tiger trade is also increasing rapidly, despite growing law enforcements to protect such a species. The skin and bones are fashioned into decorative purposes for human enjoyment. Tigers remain an endangered species with only a population of approximately 3,890.
The illegal killing and selling of protected species on the black market has left many animals endangered in the wild despite growing law enforcement which aim protect such species.