Wildlife trafficking is now estimated to be the fourth most profitable transnational crime, impacting both animals and humans alike. The illegal trade in live animals and animal parts is pushing vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species to the brink of extinction. A recent UN report found that one million species of animals and plants are now at risk of extinction, listing hunting and poaching as one of the main drivers of this decline. But through a variety of Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA) initiatives, we are finding ways to end the illegal wildlife trade. Last week, WTA partners highlighted three campaigns to raise awareness about wildlife trafficking and to encourage public action to help us protect wildlife from this horrific crime.
To protect elephants from poaching, WTA and AZA, along with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), launched the Toss the Tusk campaign. Toss The Tusk is a series of ivory surrender events taking place at eight AZA-accredited zoos across the U.S. At these events, the public will have the opportunity to bring their unwanted ivory for proper disposal. The United States is a significant market for illegal ivory products, which means that demand from American consumers has a tremendous influence on whether elephants will become extinct within our lifetime. By surrendering ivory people have in their homes, ensuring it will never hold value in the market, the public can send a strong signal to the world that elephants are worth more alive.
On September 22, the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens hosted the first event of our 2019 fall series.
Every 25 minutes, one elephant is killed for its tusks—to make carvings, trinkets, jewelry, souvenirs, home décor, and other non-essential goods. In a recent three-year period, approximately one fifth of the entire African elephant population, 100,000 elephants, were killed for their ivory. According to the Great Elephant Census, African savanna elephants have declined by 30% in seven years. At the current rate of killing, it won’t be long before elephants are gone from the wild.
Toss The Tusk is an opportunity to draw attention to the elephant poaching crisis and spark consumer action in local communities. Visit our website to learn more or to find an event near you: www.WildlifeTraffickingAlliance.Org/TossTheTusk.
World Rhino day was also celebrated on September 22 and WTA utilized this day to bring attention to the rhino poaching crisis. Even though rhino horn is made of keratin, just like human fingernails, rhinos are poached to fuel demand for traditional medicines, thought to cure a variety of physical ailments. Rhinos are killed at a rate of three per day in South Africa. Since 2008, one-fifth of the remaining African rhinos, nearly 6,000 individuals, have been poached. And only 3,000 Asian rhinos remain in the wild. If poaching continues at current rates, rhinos will certainly be pushed to extinction.
To protect rhinos, WTA and WildAid have partnered on a campaign with DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda to raise awareness about rhino poaching—in addition to lions, tigers, elephants, , and pangolins. Fifteen AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are taking part in this campaign, which seeks to educate millions about the illegal wildlife trade through advertising, posters, PSAs, social media, and more. Celebrate with us and support this campaign by spreading its critical messages to protect these five heavily-trafficked species.
September 27 was World Tourism Day, which provided WTA an opportunity to highlight its initiatives to work with the travel industry to educate travelers about wildlife trafficking. Around the world, travelers will find a variety of wildlife and plant products for sale—such as jewelry, clothes, pets, souvenirs and more. WTA teamed up with the travel industry in 2017 to develop a communications toolkit to help travelers make informed purchasing choices around the world. The toolkit provides travel companies with a variety of resources they can use to engage travelers in the fight to stop wildlife trafficking.
On World Tourism Day, WTA and its partners highlighted a few of these materials, including the Guide for Travelers, Caribbean Guide for Travelers, and sea turtle identification materials. Join us in becoming a responsible consumer and visit www.WildlifeTraffickingAlliance.Org/BuyInformed. Here you can learn more about the illegal trade of wildlife and download materials to take with you on your next vacation.
Visit the WTA website to find out how you can help end illegal trafficking.