Many conservationists around the world favor enacting and enforcing laws to prohibit capturing or killing rare species. Such laws, it turns out, have unintended consequences. Scientific American reports that laws listing species as endangered can transform them into valuable black market commodities. As an example, the article notes that Indonesian government's listing of the Javan hawk eagle as endangered attracted the attention of poachers who had long ignored the bird. According to SciAm:
To celebrate the raptor's official "National Rare/Precious Animal" designation, the Indonesian government printed the Javan hawk eagle's likeness on postage stamps and phone books. Soon zookeepers and illegal pet collectors were clamoring for one of their own, and the birds began popping up for sale in markets around Indonesia. In a study published earlier this year in Oryx, researchers from the University of Amsterdam's zoological museum concluded that ever since the Indonesian government officially labeled Javan hawk eagles as rare and precious, illegal poaching has removed the birds from the wild at an ever-escalating pace. Over the period from 1975 to 1991, just three were sighted for sale in Indonesian markets; in recent years 30 to 40 of the eagles have been spotted in markets annually.
Why does listing as "endangered" further endanger some species?
Perceived rareness makes animals more appealing to collectors and the increasingly limited supply pushes their price up on the black market, making illegal trapping and hunting more lucrative. Wildlife that once existed under the radar suffers from sudden visibility and faddish appeal. In an ironic coup de grâce, endangered species designation can sometimes escalate poaching to the point that it wipes out the species it was intended to protect.
Then there are the tasty endangered animals. The SciAm article notes that some connoisseurs of rare abalones and turtles find that rarity enhances their flavor.
Of course, listing a species as endangered often has other unintended consequences. In the U.S., the prospect of a listing a new species encourages landowners who fear new restrictions on their property to shoot, shovel, and shut up.
Whole ironic SciAm article here.