“It’s like we are living in a nightmare” said Will Travers OBE, CEO Born Free Foundation ”The images we see in wildlife documentaries can lull us all too often into a false sense of security. We are led to believe that the natural world is holding its own. In fact, it is being beaten to a bloody pulp.”
“The situation is now so bad, the poaching and slaughter of wildlife now so inextricably linked to international organised crime syndicates, that without a dramatic step-change in our efforts and without the resources for effective species conservation, we shall, in my view, end up with a handful of ‘wildlife fortresses’ – heavily guarded National Reserves and Parks, protected by garrisons of armed rangers and wardens – and that’s it.” Travers continued.
Recent announcements by former US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, echoed by the UK Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, on his recent trip to Kenya, indicate that criminal operations co-ordinated by terrorist organisations such as al-Shabab , Boko Haram and the Lord’s Resistance Army, are intimately connected with wildlife crime, the proceeds of which fuels their efforts to plunder and terrorise.
- African elephants down by 30% in 20 years – there were 1.3 million in 1979, now there may be less than 400,000. Some countries could lose their elephants entirely within 5 years
- 668 rhino of South Africa’s 20,000 rhino poached in 2012 alone – up from just 13 in 2007
- African lion numbers collapse by 50% to below 35,000 since 1980 and the trade in lion body parts grows in leaps and bounds
- 3,500 wild tigers cling to survival, down from 100,000 just over a century ago, driven by poaching for their body parts
- At least 38,000,000 sharks unsustainably caught for their fins, primarily for soup
- Thousands of Manta rays caught and traded for their gills which are used for medicinal purposes in the Far East
- Approximately 600 Polar bears killed each year, of which 64% are commercially traded as skins
“The resources and the forces we have at our disposal to resist the tide of poaching, are simply not enough” said Will Travers. “Until the international community recognises the need to meet this threat head-on, then endangered wild animals will lose their lives, people will be murdered, local communities will be destabilised and environments will be destroyed.”
The Born Free Foundation is calling on the 177 Member countries that are signatories to CITES meeting in Bangkok (3rd to 15th March) and particularly the UK as part of the EU, to urgently put in place effective measures to prevent the further loss of key-stone species. The charity also urges the international community to dig deep and find the essential resources necessary to shatter the organised crime syndicates that are behind today’s poaching epidemic and equip the men and women who regularly lose their lives on the conservation frontline.