Newsbrief, TerraViva United Nations

Wild Life Crisis Threatens World’s Iconic Species

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 3 2016 (IPS) - “Time is running out to end the poaching crisis that threatens some of the world’s most iconic species,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a statement marking World Wildlife Day.

Echoing the theme of World Wildlife Day, with its third annual celebration on March 3, Ban said “the future of wildlife is in our hands” and noted the threats that animals and plants face from poaching and illicit trafficking.

Despite a decrease in poaching levels, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) reported that elephant poaching rates have remained unacceptably high, with more being killed than born.

Approximately 60 percent of all elephant deaths are due to poaching. In 2015 alone, at least 20,000 elephants were killed for ivory.

CITES also noted a “troubling” upward trend in poaching recorded in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, an area established to protect wildlife, especially elephants. It found that elephant poaching jumped from 17 percent in 2014 to 41 percent in 2015.

In many African nations, armed groups and corrupt governments increasingly poach and traffic elephants due the lucrative trade in ivory that spans the globe.

“Deadly armed groups such as Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, as well as Sudanese and South Sudanese armed factions, rely on poaching and trafficking ivory for ammunition and supplies,” said Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project.

“But this illegal trade wouldn’t be sustained if it weren’t for corrupt actors in governments in east Africa who help smuggle the ivory,” he continued.

Kasper Agger, Enough Project’s Central Africa Field Researcher, said blood ivory is a major driver of insecurity across Africa which not only threatens elephants, but also directly leads to the deaths of civilians.

Rhinos and pangolins have also faced increased risk of extinction due to poaching. In South Africa alone, the number of rhinos poached has increased by 9,000% since 2007 – from 13 to a record 1,215 in 2014.

According to reported seizures between 2011 and 2013, an estimated 115,000 to 230,000 pangolins, which have now become the most poached and trafficked mammals, were killed. Experts, however, believe that such reported seizures may only represent as little as 10 percent of the actual number of pangolins in illegal wildlife trade.

Both Rhino horns and pangolin scales are used in traditional medicine to treat a range of illnesses from fevers to cancer.

“The current wildlife crisis is not a natural phenomenon—unlike a drought, a flood or a cyclone,” said CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanton.

“People are the cause of this serious threat to wildlife and people must be the solution, which also requires us to tackle human greed, ignorance and indifference,” he continued.

Scanton, along with Ban, urged for more action by key actors including businesses and governments in order to protect and save generations of wildlife. They highlighted the need to tackle supply and demand, making wildlife trafficking less profitable and much riskier.

Enough Project, a non-profit organisation, has also called on the US Congress to enact anti-poaching legislation and to increase support for park rangers battling armed poaching groups..

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), at least 10,000 species go extinct every year. This loss of species is occurring at a rapid rate, as experts believe it to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.

Included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by all of the UN’s member states, is a commitment to end poaching and trafficking of protected wildlife.


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