Did you know that African savannah elephants have declined by 60% in Tanzania since 2009, or that chimpanzees are now extinct in Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo?
This year World Wildlife Day, 3 March, is celebrated with the theme “Listen to the Young Voices.”
Given that almost one quarter of the world’s population is aged between 10 and 24, vigorous efforts need to be made to encourage young people, as the future leaders and decision makers of the world, to act at both local and global levels to protect endangered wildlife.
Driven by growing demand for wildlife and forest products, the illegal trade in wildlife has, in recent years, escalated into a global crisis, pushing several iconic species to the brink of extinction.
Much more than a conservation issue, wildlife crime is disrupting development by depriving countries of billions of dollars-worth of resources, cashed in by organized international cartels. According to a UN Environment-Interpol report, illegal trade in wildlife alone is worth $23 billion annually, 26% higher than previously estimated, and along with trafficking of drugs, arms and humans it is one of the largest illegal trades in the world.
Illegal trade in wildlife has devastating environmental and socio-economic impacts as well, leading to the degradation of ecosystems, creating major barriers to local communities for sustaining and managing their natural resources, leading to huge losses in revenue and income and threatening national security by undermining the rule of law.
However bleak these facts might be, prompt actions can make a positive impact on conservation issues around the world.
For example, in 2015, two of the largest ivory markets in the world, US and China, announced they would be closing their international and domestic trade in elephant ivory. And Nepal? It has been able to achieve zero rhino poaching in three out of the last five years, allowing the rhino population to grow by 21%.
Decisive action against illegal trade in wildlife will also benefit every aspect of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Young people have a decisive role to play.
It’s time for us all to listen to the young voices.
To raise awareness of the illegal trade in wildlife, UN Environment in coordination with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), launched an unprecedented UN campaign called Wild for Life, to mobilize the public to make commitments and take action to end the illegal trade.
The Brussels based United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe - UNRIC provides information on UN activities to the countries of the region. It also provides liaison with institutions of the European Union in the field of information. Its outreach activities extend to all segments of society and joint campaigns, projects and events are organized with partners including the EU, governments, the media, NGOs, schools and local authorities.
United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC Brussels)
Residence Palace, Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 155, Block C2,7th and 8th floor, Brussels 1040, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 788 8484 / Fax: 32 2 788 8485