By Jeremy Hance
In a single night in March, a band of heavily-armed, horse-riding poachers slaughtered 89 elephants in southern Chad, thirty of which were pregnant females. The carnage was the worst poaching incident of the year, but even this slaughter paled in comparison to the 300 elephants killed in a Cameroon park in 2012. Elephant poaching is hitting new records as experts say some 30,000 elephants are being killed every year for their ivory tusks. But the illegal wildlife trade—estimated at $19 billion—is not just decimating elephants, but also rhinos, big cats, great apes, and thousands of lesser-known species like pangolins and slow lorises. This growing carnage recently led to representatives of over 40 zoos and dozens of wildlife programs to call on governments around the world to take immediate action on long-neglected wildlife crime.
Meeting in Des Moines earlier this month at the Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation Conference (ZACC), over 200 conservationists—representing zoos, aquariums, and field work around the world—raised an alarm over the booming wildlife trade. Participants called on governments to commit more ambitious and coordinated action against poachers and smugglers, including beefed up law enforcement and tougher penalties. In addition, they called for more consumer-awareness campaigns about the trade.
"The illegal wildlife trade has become a critical threat to global biodiversity. The demand for wildlife in the form of exotic pets, traditional medicine, and bushmeat is supported by a vast criminal network stretching around the globe linking poachers and consumers," said Quyen Vu, founder and director of Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), who attended the conference. ENV fights wildlife crime across Vietnam, which has become a major consumer nation for many illicit wildlife products.
While the ZACC conference applauded a recent $10 million commitment by the U.S. government for anti-poaching efforts in Africa, the organization said that this should be seen as a starting point. More....