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Why Protecting Elephants From Poaching Matters More Than You Think

Julian Lee's picture
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Elephants – in particular the forest elephants of Central Africa – are being poached at unprecedented rates for their valuable ivory. It is estimated that at least 200,000 forest elephants – a whopping 65 percent of the elephant population – have been slaughtered since 2002. Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been hotspots for the killing.

Now you might ask why we should care--an especially appropriate question to ask as we celebrate Earth Day. As humans, we may be attached to charismatic species such as elephants – but will their extinction affect us directly? The answer is yes.  The intricate interconnections within ecosystems mean that the disappearance of a species has effects that are never limited to just that particular species.  The impact can be broad and deep, affecting other animal and plant species, our water supply, people’s livelihoods, and even – in small ways – the climate.

Why We Need to Count Elephants (and Other Natural Resources)

Julian Lee's picture
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Elephants with Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. Curt Carnemark / World BankLate last year, ministers and delegates from some 30 countries met in Botswana to discuss how to fight the booming illegal trade in ivory that is decimating Africa’s elephant population.
 
CITES estimates that 22,000 elephants were killed in Central and East Africa in just the year 2012. Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda are just a few of the countries affected by elephant poaching. The poached ivory is used for ornamental carvings that serve as status symbols, religious icons, and collector’s items for buyers across East Asia, Europe, and North America. This is not just a conservation issue. Wildlife crime is also a development and security challenge: It undermines government authority, breeds corruption, increases the supply of small arms, and destroys valuable natural resources. So the growing political attention wildlife crime is receiving – British Prime Minister David Cameron will host the next summit in February – is a welcome sign of high-level political commitment to address the crisis.

Why I’m More Optimistic than Ever about Biodiversity Conservation

Valerie Hickey's picture
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Conservation biology was baptized as an interdisciplinary problem science in 1978 at a University of California San Diego conference. But the conservation movement precedes this conference by at least a century, when the first national park was established in Yellowstone in 1872 and signed into law by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. Both the academic discipline and the practice of conservation have had two things in common for a long time: they remained steadfast to their original mission to protect nature and their proponents were largely American and European and mostly middle class. 
 
But nothing stays the same forever.
 

Longreads: Women and Political Power, Developing Countries Turn to Each Other for Conservation, Skills Are the Test of Progress

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.

The new Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum inspired tweets and stories all over the world, including this one in Bloomberg Businessweek highlighting the finding that women represent only 20% of elected officials.  Also check out the gender inequality data visualization in Slate.  Biodiversity and ecosystems popped up on Twitter during the UN biodiversity meeting in Hyderabad, India, in October. While developed countries doubled pledges for conservation, India also made headlines when it announced a $50 million grant to help developing countries preserve biodiversity. The move, along with other examples of recent conservation efforts by emerging countries, hints of a future in which larger developing economies “play a more active role in saving the environment – not just at home, but also abroad,” reports the New York Times blog, India Ink.  With global youth unemployment at critical levels, a new Education for All Global Monitoring Report finds that 20% of young people in developing countries don’t have enough education or skills for work.  Kwame Akyeampong, an Education for All senior policy analyst, looks at the situation for themost vulnerable and disadvantaged youth in his native Ghana in an Al Jazeera opinion piece.  Once available only to paid subscribers, academic research papers are now increasingly accessible through open access publishing, according to a story in The Guardian. “The exponential rise in open access publishing shows no sign of slowing down,” writes Stephen Curry, a professor of structural biology at Imperial College. 

Progress in the Corridors at the Convention on Biological Diversity

Rachel Kyte's picture

Elephants. World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Sometimes, international convention meetings can be heart-breakingly slow-moving. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – one of the three conventions born after Rio in 1992 to drive sustainable development – which has been meeting in Hyderabad in India this week, is no exception. I’ve seen tough negotiators from all corners of the Earth emerge from conference rooms wearing pained expressions.

It’s outside the negotiating rooms – where the major topic of the moment is how to mobilize the financial resources needed to meet the CBD’s ambitious Aichi Targets – where things are a lot brighter.

Cost-Effective Conservation

Rachel Kyte's picture

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The success of the Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA) drew a crowd here in Hyderabad at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting. This effort by the government of Brazil – supported by the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, WWF, and the German Development Bank (KfW) – is protecting almost 60 million hectares of rainforest, an area roughly the size of France and Belgium combined.

Speakers from the governments of Brazil and Germany, as well as from the GEF and foundations, all agreed that ARPA’s results are impressive: Between 2004 and 2006, ARPA accounted for 37 percent of Brazil’s substantial decrease in deforestation, and the program’s first 13 new protected areas will save more than 430 million tons of CO2 emissions through 2050.

Putting Nature at the Heart of Economic Decisions

Rachel Kyte's picture

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To put nature at the heart of economic decisions, government, the private sector & the conservation community must reach across the aisle.

Look around the world, and you’ll see abundant reasons to worry about nature and its capacity to sustain us. Over 60 percent of ecosystems are in worse shape now than 50 years ago; 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted; half of all wetlands have been destroyed since 1900; and climate change is changing everything.

But at the same time, if you look carefully, there are reasons for cautious optimism.

Celebrating Earth Day and biodiversity

Sameer Vasta's picture

April 21, 2010 - Washington, D.C. 2010 Global Tiger Initiative event with World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick.Photo: © Ryan Rayburn/World Bank

Happy Earth Day!

In advance of the Spring Meetings and just in time for Earth Day, the Bank kicked off its support for International Year of Biodiversity on Wednesday with a new edition of its flagship magazine, Environment Matters.

The magazine, "Banking on Biodiversity," was launched Wednesday by President Zoellick at a special event at the Bank's headquarters in Washingont DC to draw attention to the plight of the wild tiger, a potent symbol of the threat to biodiversity worldwide.

"We are using the appeal of these charismatic big cats as a clarion call," said President Zoellick, "to draw attention to the need to protect biodiversity and to remind people of the wildlife and wilderness we stand to lose if we do not balance conservation and economic development."