On March 3rd we will celebrate World Wildlife Day. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013, this day raises awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora. This year’s theme, "The future of wildlife is in our hands" resonates with those who understand the impact of species loss on the health of ecosystems and human survival.
We are currently in the midst of the sixth, man-made mass extinction of plants and animals. Experts estimate the current loss of species to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. The global Living Planet Index (LPI) shows an overall species decline of 52% between 1970 and 2010. Our increasing demands on nature are driving the two biggest catastrophic threats to species decline- habitat loss and wildlife trade. Habitat loss is a threat to 85% of all species. Exploitation (including poaching and wildlife trade) is the most immediate threat to wildlife populations worldwide.
Illicit trafficking in wildlife is a multifaceted global threat. The problem is particularly acute in Africa, where poaching is leading some charismatic species to the brink of extinction. For example, in 2011 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the Western black rhino extinct, largely due to poaching. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) program estimated that in the last 5 years, between 22,000 to 25,000 elephants were poached per year across Africa.