It’s a trans-national business that funds terrorist organisations, fuels conflict in Africa, and poses environmental, development and security challenges. The illegal wildlife trade is also a lucrative business, generating an estimated USD$20 billion per year.
At the launch of the United for Wildlife “#WhoseSideAreYou” campaign, in June this year, HRH Duke of Cambridge said, “There are two thousand critically endangered species on the verge of being lost forever. It’s time to choose a side – between the endangered animals and the criminals who kill them for money. I am calling on people all around the world to tell us: whose side are you on?”
Global March for Elephants and Rhinos
The answer will be loud and clear from the thousands of people in over 100 cities worldwide joining the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos (GMFER) on 4th October this year. Dr Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, has given her support to the march, saying, “We must join forces everywhere to stop the slaughter of elephants and rhinos. They feel pain, they know suffering. We must stop people from buying ivory.” Support has also been given by English actor Ricky Gervais: “How can we allow the extinction of 2 magnificent creatures for the sake of the some morons owning tasteless trinkets or trying fake medicine?”
Also supporting the event, Joanna Lumley, OBE and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, says “If we stand by and watch the brutal extinction of rhino and elephant, the stain of shame on our human consciousness will never be forgiven or forgotten.”
The organisers of the grass roots event to be held in Stellenbosch (meeting under the bridge in Merriman street) say that, “only a truly global response will stop our globally iconic species being sold into extinction. World Animal Day this year must focus on action – individuals, peoples, governments – all of us must act to end the vile trade in endangered species.”
Officially acknowledged by United For Wildlife as an event that will raise awareness about the crisis facing the world’s wildlife, GMFER organisers hope the event will also help to reduce demand for endangered species ‘products’ and will be pushing for governments to ban all commercial trading of endangered wildlife and to put an end to wildlife trafficking.
“Individuals, and society as a whole, can choose to shun ivory, rhino horn, lion and tiger bones as commodities,” say event organisers, “but we need governments to play their part too, by increasing penalties for bribery, corruption and trafficking offenses, and by shutting down all retail outlets and ivory carving factories.” The Global March will also call on governments to publicly destroy their stockpiles of illegal wildlife products, to show “zero tolerance for illegal trading”.
Elephant and Rhino Poaching
In Africa four elephants are illegally killed for their ivory every hour, and estimates are that between only 250,000 to 400,000 survive today. Illegally killed for their horn, it is estimated that less than 22,000 African rhino now remain. As for lions, more survive now in captivity, where they are bred to be shot by hunters, than roam in the wild.
Their path to extinction is very clear and the causes are well understood. “Ivory, rhino horn, lion and tiger bones continue to be sold to feed a relentless and growing demand, largely in Asia, where the body parts of these endangered animals are still viewed as highly sought after products,” explain the march organisers.
The ivory and rhino horn trade is particularly cruel and gruesome – not only do poachers indiscriminately slaughter adults, babies or whole herds alike, but often hack off an elephant’s tusks or rhino’s horns while they are still alive. “When it comes to choosing between saving the elephant, rhino and lion from extinction or slaughtering them for some mythical medicinal property or for an expensive carving, the choice is clear,” GMFER event organisers say.
Don’t stand on the sideline, “Whose side are you on?” Find a march near you: