What does a poacher look like? The answer might surprise you. And that's something award-winning cameraman Mark Thorpe wants the rest of us to think about when we angrily call for all poachers to be shot on sight. 

I consider myself a conservationist in the sense that I detest all there is about wildlife exploitation, habitat destruction and the pervasive mindset that something has to be monetised in order to validate its existence. I am also active on Twitter, and since 2009, I've amassed a crowd of some 200,000 responsive and, for the most part, polite and cool followers from all corners of the planet. 

Just in the past few days, I've tweeted the news that ivory products can be readily purchased on the classifieds website Craigslist, with in excess of US$1.5 million in products available for purchase. Look to China, Vietnam, Thailand and many other Asian nations, and you'll find an ever-expanding and affluent middle class that, again, has an untold number of procurement options for wildlife body parts and products derived from them.

Controlled by organised crime syndicates, the illegal trade in wildlife is a multibillion-dollar monster of an industry that is exploited by terrorist cells throughout the African continent, cells such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, who capitalise on the value of these commodities to fund their radical agendas.

But really understanding the scourge of wildlife exploitation is a very complex matter. And I particularly oppose the "kill 'em all" attitude towards poachers that seems so prevalent in online discussions. Whilst I myself used to be quite vociferous in my opinions about the illicit and vile trade in wildlife body parts, I've since made an effort to change what I present online. This is largely to distance myself from these extreme "kill 'em all" attitudes, but it’s also thanks to my exposure to the work that is being carried out by wildlife tracker and activist Rory Young and the organisation that sponsors his work, Chengeta Wildlife.

For those of you who call for the killing of poachers, I implore you to look at the picture below and tell me which poacher you would set your weapon sights on first.

Children Poachers _2015_05_12
Image: Rory Young

Caught in the turmoil of unrest in the Central African Republic, all that these young children have are the clothes that hang from their tiny frames. Young tells me: "These children from the area of Bayanga in Central African Republic (CAR) accompanied a group of Sudanese poachers who had travelled from Sudan across the CAR, an area twice the size of Texas, to massacre an entire herd of 36 rare forest elephants. They were present at the killing and were given the meat by the Sudanese in return for showing them where to find the elephants. Therefore, according to the law, they are poachers. The same children will participate in killing animals if told to do so and will not hesitate. They are hungry, desperate and terrified of the men giving the orders."

Please let this situation sink in. It's pretty hard to imagine in our privileged worlds, but ask yourself: If you were in this same situation, with a family to feed and yet no food and no prospects, wouldn’t you too be lured by a potential payday, or failing that, at least enough meat to see your family through another week?

Historically, and to this day, the bulk of the demand for ivory, rhino horn, tiger parts, shark fins and an assortment of other products derived from endangered species comes not from within Africa but from within the affluent societies many of us exist in. It is here that we find the real "poachers".

Recently, Chengeta Wildlife started a campaign called #Give5Tag5, which asks people donate five dollars, five pounds or any other donation they can, and then tag five friends or acquaintances to carry on that motion. Every cent raised goes towards keeping Rory Young in the field to excel at what he does best: training ranger units across the African continent. Young teaches skills that are relevant to managing a tract of land, and reducing and eventually eliminating poaching activities in that area. That includes skills such as bush tracking, geographical evaluation for poacher access routes and other military-based knowledge.

So if you really want to make an impact, instead of crying out for the death of these impoverished people, sacrifice your morning vanilla latte and donate to fund Rory's work instead, and then tell five fiends to do the same. You can get all of the details for that feel-good option from the Chengeta Wildlife website.

Top header image: Mary Harrsch, Flickr