June 5 is World Environment Day (WED), a day launched over 40 years ago by UNEP to increase awareness of the colossal environmental destruction our planet is facing, and encourage people to become agents of change.
This year’s WED was dedicated to raising awareness on illegal wildlife trade – now also considered a national and economic security threat due to the high levels of crime linked to it. WED 2016 was hosted by Angola, a country recovering from over 25 years of civil war, now seeking to restore its elephant herds, conserve biodiversity, and safeguard the environment.
The illegal wildlife trade is worth at least $10 billion per year, with elephants, rhinos and tigers being the main animals being poached to fulfill demands for their tusks, horns and skin. The street value of ivory can reach up to $2,205 per kilogram in Beijing; and rhino horn can sell for $66,139 per kilogram (more than the price of gold or platinum) on the Chinese black market.
Overexploitation of wildlife is considered the second largest direct threat to many species after habitat loss: In early 20th century, Africa was home to 1 million black rhinos, today they are extinct. Overall, according to the UN, of the 8,300 animal breeds known, 8% are extinct and 22% are at risk of extinction; illegal poaching plays a large role.
Recently the US has banned ivory trade – with the country being amongst the largest markets in the world, this is a huge step forward considering that the US is one of the largest markets for these products.
Lack of awareness is usually the fundamental problem, and the best place to start. If you are interested in knowing more about the illegal wildlife trade and what solutions are in the works, here are some resourceful links:
Wild For Life – Campaign for WED
Traffic – An organisation whose goal is to ensure that trade in animals and plants in not a threat to the conservation on nature
Global Impacts of Illegal Wildlife Trade – Chatham House paper
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Racing Extinction – A great film related to this cause and well worth watching
If you want to take action, the easiest things you can do is educate yourself, spread awareness, and do not buy products made from these animals.
If this is your cause, or your “big love“, there are many other organisations working tirelessly to stop illegal wildlife trade; 96 Elephants and VetPaw are some examples. Join them, donate, spread the word.