Today (03.03.2017) marks the third anniversary of World Wildlife Day, created by the United Nations to celebrate the world’s wild animals and plants, particularly those most at risk from the unsustainable and illegal wildlife trade.
Since last year, we have witnessed a historic period for wildlife, including the giant panda being ‘relisted’ from endangered to vulnerable and tiger numbers increasing; but there is a still a great deal more to be achieved. We are at a crucial time for wildlife as people overpower the planet for the first time in Earth’s history. We must bolster the current momentum or risk undoing years of vital conservation work.
For this day to truly become a celebration of wildlife we must see the following success in the next two years. By World Wildlife Day’s fifth anniversary in March 2019; WWF is working to secure the following five key achievements.
1. A reduction to the 67% decline in species populations projected in the Living Planet Report 2016
WWF’s Living Planet Report is the world’s leading, science-based look at the health of our amazing planet. The latest edition revealed we are on course to experience a 67 per cent decline by 2020 in global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles from 1970.
The latest State of Nature Report looks specifically at the UK and also echoes the stark findings of the global Living Planet Report. According to data and expertise of more than 50 organisations including WWF, it was revealed nature in the UK is faring worse than in most other countries. The threat of extinction looms large over 1,199 of the UK’s most endangered animals and plants while more than half of all British wildlife are suffering long-term declines.
The reports also show we can solve these problems. The Living Planet Report 2018 will provide a crucial insight into the impacts of the united conservation efforts we have experienced worldwide over recent years. WWF is working with governments, local communities and other NGOs to ensure we see start to see a reduction in the population decline seen in 2016’s report.
2. A ban of the UK’s domestic ivory trade
It’s been almost six months since the UK government promised to crack down on the legal ivory trade but concrete action is yet to be taken. Recent evidence has revealed that the UK’s legal ivory market has been used as a cover for trade in illegal ivory and some legal shipments are destined for Asia. This shows that current policies must be strengthened.
In recent months there has been significant progress worldwide to reduce illegal ivory trade and stem elephant poaching. On average, one African elephant is killed every 25 minutes by poachers so we must see urgent action globally to control all key domestic ivory markets fuelling the illegal ivory trade. Although the UK is not considered to be one of those markets contributing most to the global problems, a ban will send a powerful message and demonstrate leadership in tackling this devastating trade.
3. Introduce sentencing guidelines for wildlife crime in the UK
Wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest international illegal trade in the world, worth over an estimated £15 billion annually. It is a serious crime, often involving organised criminal syndicates.
Currently in the UK, there are no sentencing guidelines for wildlife crimes. Individuals caught illegally trading in products such as ivory, tiger skins and rhino horn often face minimal penalties. For example one individual was convicted of possessing tiger claws and teeth worth an estimated £17,000 – they received a court order of 120 hours of unpaid work and a £60 charge.
The UK must set a precedent to the world, showing trade in illegal wildlife products will not be tolerated and justice will be served. Sentencing guidelines are needed to ensure the consequences reflect the severity of these crimes.
4. Achieve zero poaching of elephants in Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania, Africa
Half of natural world heritage sites are at risk from human activities including poaching, mining, deforestation and oil and gas drilling. These treasured sites are also home to many threatened iconic species.
WWF is campaigning for zero elephant poaching in Selous Game Reserve, one of Africa’s largest wilderness areas. In less than 40 years, it’s lost about 90 per cent of its elephants. WWF is also calling for the public to join the campaign to stop industrial scale activities and achieve zero poaching of elephants in Selous by 2018.
5. Global agreement to close all tiger farms across Asia
WWF is calling for global agreement to close tiger farms across Asia by 2019. There is known to be a vast network of more than 200 captive tiger breeding facilities across the continent. These facilities now hold approximately 7,000-8,000 captive tigers according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) - a staggering amount more than left in the wild.
A large number of these places are likely to be involved in the illegal trade of tigers, and tiger parts and products - some of which masquerade as tourist attractions.
A 2016 WWF survey of UK public found 76% of those asked weren’t aware of these often deceiving tiger farms. Last year, officials raided the notorious Tiger Temple in Thailand, finding more than 40 frozen tiger cubs and removing nearly 140 tigers.
There are now estimated to be close to 3,900 tigers in the wild, up from the previous estimate of as few as 3,200 in 2010 - the year in which all 13 tiger range states plus partner countries and organisations committed to work towards the TX2 goal of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022.