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The future of wildlife is in our hands

Claudia Sobrevila's picture
Botswana. The Global Wildlife Program

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.

On rhino horns, banking nature and climate hope

Muthukumara Mani's picture
It is not often that as an economist, you find yourself surrounded by creative artists! I found myself in such a situation recently when I was invited to be a panelist for the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival. It presented me with an opportunity to witness firsthand how the issues of environment and climate change are perceived and interpreted in the community of artists and filmmakers.

The festival criteria read that “by screening a diverse selection of high quality films that deal with pressing issues, and by organizing discussion panels with environmental experts, filmmakers and other stakeholders, the Festival seeks to promote dialogue and inspire Dominican viewers to adopt practices that will ensure the country’s environmental sustainability and health.” For a small Caribbean nation to take these issues seriously and attempt to educate its people using cinema was indeed commendable.
Gambling on Extinction, directed by Jakob Kneser

What I witnessed on landing in Santo Domingo was truly remarkable. There were filmmakers from all over the world, but also organizers of similar festivals from other countries. That is when I realized that environmental film festivals have now become a global movement with the intention of informing, influencing, and galvanizing people on critical environmental issues. While the first “environmental” films were produced back in the 1960s when the global environmental movement was in its infancy, there are now 30 or more international environmental film festivals held all over the world attracting hundreds of films and thousands of people. They cover issues such as clean water, sanitation, forests, biodiversity, sustainable consumption and climate change. Even more remarkable, most of these short films or documentaries are often produced on a shoe-string budget, but with an enormous degree of passion and perseverance to get the message across.  What really impressed me was that although they dealt with critical issues facing us today, in most cases the messages were of hope and optimism!

I want to share with you some of the films that I watched:

Campaign Art: Be Ivory Free

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Most of us working at The World Bank Group remember Prince William’s visit last year to discuss corruption and the illegal wildlife trade.  In a speech, he announced the establishment of a royal task force to work with the transportation industry to examine its part in illegal wildlife trade.

Despite a ban on the international trade in ivory, African elephants are still poached in large numbers. Their ivory tusks are often carved into ornaments and jewelry. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, around 35,000 elephants are killed each year due to poaching, devastating the elephant populations of West and Central Africa.  As recently as the 1930s and 1940s, there were between 3 to 5 million elephants in Africa, but today, there are only about 470,000.

WildAid launched a campaign in 2014 targeting the demand side of the ivory trade, with wildlife ambassadors admonishing that “When the buying stops, the killing can, too.”

Lang Lang, a world-famous Chinese concert pianist who has performed with leading orchestras in Europe, the United States and his native China, joined the campaign in May 2015 to help stop the killing of elephants for the ivory trade.  Lang Lang and WildAid produced the following video featuring a performance of Beethoven’s Sonata “Appasionata” and the work of award-winning photographer Nick Brandt. Brandt is the founder of Big Life Foundation and a frequent contributor to WildAid campaigns.
 
VIDEO: Be Ivory Free


How forensic intelligence helps combat illegal wildlife trade

Samuel Wasser's picture
 Diana Robinson / Creative Commons Over the past decade, illegal poaching of wildlife has quickly caught up to habitat destruction as a leading cause of wildlife loss in many countries.
 
Poaching African elephants for ivory provides a case in point. Elephant poaching has sharply increased since 2006. We may now be losing up to 50,000 elephants per year with only 450,000 elephants remaining in Africa.  In short, we are running out of time and unless we can stop the killing, we will surely lose the battle. Decreasing demand for ivory is vital over the long term, but the scale of current elephant losses makes this strategy too slow to save elephants by itself. The ecological, economic and security consequences from the loss of this keystone species will be quite severe and potentially irreversible.