Illegal trade in wildlife, which has killed hundreds of thousands of some of the world’s most iconic and lesser known species, driving some to local extinction while threatening livelihoods in communities that depend on tourism.
To highlight the danger facing elephants and to raise awareness about the damage done by the illegal trade in wildlife, the president of China’s state news agency, Xinhua News Agency recently has had first official visit to Kenya.
|New agency could save a lot of elephants from illegal trading|
The trafficking of wildlife is now the 4th largest illegal trade in the world after drugs, weapons and people. Driven by growing demand for wildlife products like ivory and rhino horn, especially from countries in Asia, the illicit trade has escalated into a global environmental crisis in recent years, pushing several species to the brink of extinction. The number of elephants killed in Africa ranges from 20,000 - 25,000/year out of a population of 420,000 - 650,000. It is estimated that rhino poaching in South Africa increased by about 9,000 between 2007 - 2015. Last year, 1,175 rhinos were poached in the country - roughly one rhino every eight hours.
In Việt Nam, rhino horn, which can cost more per kilo than gold, is seen as a luxury item, a post-party cleanser and a cure for cancer. These beliefs are driving demand for rhino horn among the region’s increasingly wealthy urban middle class.
The pangolin, also known as the scaly anteater, is considered one of the most trafficked animals on earth, with more than one million animals taken from the wild in the past decade. These pre-historic-looking animals are killed for their meat and scales but most people on the planet have never even heard of them.
To bolster efforts to end the illicit trade in wildlife, Xinhua has agreed to support UNEP in its efforts to engage and educate consumers of wildlife products. Both organizations have agreed to combine resources to bring greater attention to the illegal trade in wildlife in an effort to reduce demand, so that consumers understand the damage their purchases cause.
The deal also aims to foster collaboration between the two organizations to boost media coverage and awareness of UNEP’s critical work on environmental issues.
Aside from further collaboration with Xinhua, UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw also discussed with President Cai the upcoming gathering of the world’s most powerful decision-making body on the environment - the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), which will be held in Nairobi in May.
The illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products will be the focus of one of the many resolutions up for discussion at UNEA.
Other issues discussed during President Cai’s visit included UNEP’s work on tackling marine litter, its work on sustainable tourism ahead of the upcoming Olympics in Brazil and air pollution in Beijing. “We would like to further strengthen our cooperation with UNEP,” said President Cai in a meeting with Mr Thiaw in Nairobi. “I believe the illegal wildlife trade is an incredibly important issue that is relevant to all human beings on this planet. Through storytelling people are more informed about the issue and the choices they can make to improve the situation. That’s why we want to continue partnering with UNEP.”