In response to record poaching rates, WWF today is launching a global campaign calling governments to combat illegal wildlife trade and reduce demand for illicit endangered species products. Demand for ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts from consumer markets in Asia is driving wild populations dangerously close to extinction.
“Governments are largely ignoring the crisis affecting our endangered species. Throughout our global campaign, countries will hear directly from their constituents that the people expect better from them. The time to act is now while we can still save rhinos, tigers and elephants,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Conservation for WWF International.
WWF will engage its constituents in online activities to educate, empower and activate them on behalf of the campaign. Supporters will have the opportunity to join the conversation, provide their campaign ideas, and undertake direct advocacy with world leaders.
Already this year, 339 rhinos have been killed by poachers in South Africa in order to supply consumer markets in Asia, particularly in Viet Nam, where the animal’s horn is touted as a hangover tonic and cure for terminal illness. Rhino poaching has increased over 3,000 per cent in the past five years.
Last year witnessed the highest recorded rates of elephant poaching in Africa. Tens of thousands of elephants are believed to be killed each year for their ivory tusks, the most in Central Africa. China and Thailand have been identified as the biggest consumer countries for illegally-trafficked ivory.
In the last 100 years, the world has lost 97 per cent of its wild tigers, including four sub-species to extinction. There may be as few as 3,200 of the endangered animals remaining. Illegal killing for trade is the biggest factor in their decline. The skins of eight tigers were seized in Russia Saturday, including four from cubs estimated to be less than two months old.
Illegal wildlife trade is one of the most lucrative international organized crimes, yet is not treated seriously by many governments. “The criminal syndicates involved in illegal wildlife trade have also been implicated in murder, drug trafficking, arms proliferation, and even terrorism,” Gustavsson said. “This campaign is more than just saving species from extinction, it is about promoting the rule of law, protecting rangers and bringing end to an illegal trade that has countless times proven to destabilize national security.”
WWF and partner TRAFFIC will mobilize millions of supporters to take action to help kill the trade that kills. Join us on the frontline in the battle against illegal wildlife trade at facebook.com/WWF and at panda.org/killthetrade.