Today is World Environment Day, celebrated across the globe each year on the 5th of June. This year’s theme and activities will highlight the cost of illegal trade of wildlife and what we can do to combat it. According to a recent report by Interpol and UNEP, environmental crime, which includes illegal trade in wildlife, has a hit a new record and is now up to $258 billion. This makes it the world’s fourth largest criminal enterprise after drug smuggling, counterfeiting and human trafficking; and growing 2-3 times faster than global GDP[sc:1].
Some of our most endangered species are particularly at risk, for example, more than 25% of the world’s elephant population has been killed in the last ten years whereas rhinos are being killed at a rate of over 25% every year for the last decade[sc:1]. Elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory, rhinos for their horns, and pangolins for their scales. From sea turtles to tigers to rosewood, thousands of species of wild animals and plants are being driven ever closer to extinction.
In line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which call for “urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna” and “addressing both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products”[sc:2], the UN has launched a campaign called “Go Wild for Nature”. The campaign, launched earlier this May, seeks to raise awareness about the devastating effects of wildlife crime to our environment and heritage, as well as the cruel practices that underpin it. Individual citizens can learn more about wildlife crime practices, which species are being endangered and declare their support for combatting wildlife crime by visiting: https://wildfor.life/the-campaign.
Angola, this year’s World Environment Day global host, has already pledged that it will no longer tolerate the sale of illegal wildlife products and to this end, it is strengthening legislation and increasing border controls. “Go Wild for Nature” is asking ministers from across the globe to follow suit and implement effective policies to protect species and ecosystems. Critical to this effort will be strengthening a lot of wildlife crime laws, which are currently weak, but also providing authorities with the resources to fight wildlife crime.
Citizens can also help to tackle illegal wildlife crime in five easy ways:
- Be better informed about the status of wildlife and wildlife products. The “Wild for Life” campaign website includes a lot of information to get you started.
- Spread the word about wildlife crime and help inform others. Why not share something through your social media channels using #wildforlife?
- Reporting crimes when they are witnessed through mobile technology and national hotlines.
- Do not buy products made from wildlife which is protected by law. International commercial trade is strictly prohibited for those species listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
- Buy products made by companies that demonstrate their commitment to sustainable supply chains and environmentally responsible practices. For example, purchase wood and paper products that are certified by schemes such as the FSC.
World Environment is celebrated once every year, but each of us has 365 days a year to do something about our endangered wildlife and environment. Let’s do something today and go wild for life!