To end the illegal wildlife trade within our lifetimes.
We believe that the ecological damage, cruelty and corruption involved in the illegal wildlife trade are both unnecessary and morally unacceptable – that these activities constitute a theft from future generations.
We believe that it is the duty of both the governments and citizens of wealthier nations to provide technical and financial support to less wealthy nations to protect our common heritage.
We want a world where our invaluable natural riches are not ravaged, one in which local communities can improve their lives without destroying their environment, and where humanity can survive together with wildlife for generations to come.
Estimated at $6-20 billion a year by Interpol, the illegal wildlife trade has drastically reduced numerous wildlife populations and currently has some teetering on the brink of extinction. The impact on human communities looks to be equally drastic in the long-term, as local resources required for sustenance hunting and tourism activities are depleted at an unsustainable rate, and as animal viruses including Ebola, SARS and possibly HIV may jump to human carriers during the poaching and transporting of wildlife.
Despite the gravity of these threats, many countries lack the resources to defend their parks and wildlife against rampant poaching, while poachers often have few options to earn a living legally. Illegal wildlife products are still openly traded in many places, with buyers often unaware of the law or of the devastation they are financing. We can change this in our lifetimes.
The fight against the illegal trade in wildlife has achieved a rare degree of international consensus, as have the related issues of rule-of-law, good governance, conflict resolution and the fight against corruption. Over 150 nations are active parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which regulates global trade in a number of threatened species including rhinos, tigers, corals and orchids. While opinions differ over which species should be protected, there is agreement that regulation and protection should be effective. Unfortunately, a lack of resources, expertise and political will – combined with unchecked demand – mean that trade regulation and protection of species is often weak. Regardless, the extent of these problems is limited and addressable in an affordable way within our lifetimes.
• Black rhino populations fell from 60,000 in 1970 to 2,500 in 1990 as poachers targeted their horns.
• African elephant numbers fell from 1,200,000 in 1970 to 600,000 in 1989 as a result of the trade in ivory.
• The Spix macaw is believed to be extinct in the wild. Most of the last individuals were trapped illegally for collectors.
• There are believed to be fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants left in the wild.
• World sturgeon catches for caviar declined from nearly 28,000 to 8,140 tons between 1982 and 1994.
• An estimated 100 million sharks, skates and rays are caught every year.
• There may be fewer than 5,000 tigers surviving in the wild.
Bears are poached for their skins as rugs and trophies and for their body parts which supply the traditional Chinese medicine trade and exotic meat market. Their paws are removed one at a time while alive to ensure freshness when used in traditional Asian meals. Bear gall bladders and bile are used to treat a wide variety of ailments from burns to liver disorders.
Coral reefs are being destroyed at an alarming rate; some are destroyed by dynamite fishing, others by uncontrolled fishing, some are harvested for nothing more than building materials. However, corals are also harvested for sale as tourist souvenirs and for the aquarium trade. The United States is the world’s largest consumer of live coral for the aquarium trade and of coral skeletons and precious corals for curios and jewelry.
Rhinos are one of the most critically endangered species on the planet. Black rhino populations fell from 60,000 in 1970 to 2,500 in 1990 as poachers targeted their horns. Traditional Chinese medicine has posed the greatest threat to rhinos. Some practitioners use rhino horn to treat fevers and other maladies such as headaches, skin diseases, heart and liver trouble, toothache and even snake bites. In North Yemen, rhino horn is used to make traditional ‘jamboyia’ dagger handles.
Elephants are descended from a long line of giant mammals, including the mammoths. African elephant numbers fell from 1,200,000 in 1970 to 600,000 in 1989 as a result of the trade in ivory. Ivory is used for jewelry, carvings and Hankos (name stamps carrying the personal seal of the owner). There are fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants left in the world.
According to the UN-Food and Agricultural Organization, over 100 million sharks and shark-like fish are caught every year. Sharks caught as by-catch are often „finned“, and the rest of their bodies are subsequently thrown overboard while the shark is still alive. Shark fin, meat, liver and other parts are sold for food or as ingredients in health and beauty aids. Shark fins however, are the most popular, fetching up to US$564 per kilo. The vast majority of all fins are shipped to Asia where the fins, made into shark fin soup, are considered a delicacy and a status symbol. Since shark fins make up only one to five percent of the animal’s bodyweight, 95 to 99 percent of the
shark is often wasted. Shark fin soup was once an expensive luxury for the privileged few in southern China, but now it is mass-produced and has become routine at weddings, banquets and business dinners for millions of people around the world.
Tigers are being hunted into extinction for their skin, bone and penis. Tiger bone is used in traditional Asian medicine to treat ailments such as rheumatism, joint and back pain, paralysis and leprosy. In Asia, the bones of a single poached tiger can fetch up to US$30,000. Tiger penis is believed to treat impotency and demands high prices as an ‘exotic’ food, a bowl of tiger penis soup costing up to US$320 in Taiwan. The tiger’s skin is also highly coveted on the luxury market for rugs and other decoration.
To end the illegal wildlife trade within our lifetimes.