Today is World Wildlife Day. Proclaimed on 20 December 2013 during the sixty-eight session of the United Nations General Assembly, March 3 celebrates the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora, recall the privileged interaction between wildlife and populations across the globe, and raise awareness of the urgent need to fight wildlife crime.
Themed “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime,” the second World Wildlife Day, observed Tuesday, will examine the challenges and opportunities for stepping up international efforts to combat wildlife crime at a global scale.
Once an emerging threat, wildlife and forest crime today has transformed into one of the largest transnational organized criminal activities, alongside drug trafficking, arms, and trafficking in human beings. Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues.
“Illegal wildlife trade undermines the rule of law and threatens national security; it degrades ecosystems and is a major obstacle to the efforts of rural communities and indigenous peoples striving to sustainably manage their natural resources. Combatting this crime is not only essential for conservation efforts and sustainable development, it will contribute to achieving peace and security in troubled regions where conflicts are fuelled by these illegal activities,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted in his statement for the Day.
The number of elephants killed in Africa annually is in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 per year out of a population of 420,000 to 650,000. According to recent data from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as many as 100,000 were killed in a three-year period from 2010 through 2012. For forest elephants, the population declined by an estimated 62 per cent between 2002 and 2011. Poached African ivory may represent an end-user street value in Asia of US$165 to US$188 million of raw ivory, in addition to ivory from Asian sources.
According to new figures released today by CITES, overall elephant poaching rates remained virtually unchanged in 2014 compared to 2013, and still exceed natural elephant population growth rates, meaning a continued decline in elephant numbers overall is likely.
CITES reports that 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone in 2014—this translates to one rhino killed every eight hours. Approximately 94 per cent of rhino poaching takes place in South Africa, which has the largest remaining populations. The involvement of organized syndicates has seen poaching rise from less than 20 in 2007 to over 1,000 in South Africa in 2013, and rhino horn poached in 2014 is valued at an estimated US$63 to US$192 million.
The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) reports that the illicit traffic in live great apes is an increasingly serious threat to chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos in Africa and orangutans in Asia, with seizures averaging 1.3 per week since 2014. Many more great apes die during capture and captivity than ever enter the illicit traffic; it is estimated that a minimum of 220 chimpanzees, 106 orangutans, 33 bonobos, and 15 gorillas have been lost from the wild over the last 14 months, according to GRASP.
The Spix’s macaw, the bird portrayed in the animation “Rio” by the friendly character “Blue”, is one of the most endangered species on the planet. Today there are only 80 Spix’s macaws in the world, the majority of which are kept by foreign bird keepers (in Spain, Germany and Qatar).
Pangolins, also known as ‘scaly anteaters’ are among the world’s most trafficked mammals on earth, with over one million animals taken from the wild in the past decade.