By Rhishja Cota-Larson
A global celebration of wildlife will take place on March 3, 2014, which marks the first annual World Wildlife Day.
The United Nations General Assembly selected March 3 as World Wildlife Day to coincide with the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In its resolution, the General Assembly reaffirmed “the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions, including ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic, to sustainable development and human well-being, and recognized the important role of CITES in ensuring that international trade does not threaten the species’ survival”.
This follows the World Wildlife Day proposal made last year at CITES CoP16, by Thailand, to “help to promote national and international action for the conservation of the world’s wildlife”.
CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon says in his World Wildlife Day video message that “Today our wildlife is suffering from habitat loss, as well as a grave threat from illegal trade which is worth many billions of dollars every year. This illegal trade is now threatening the survival of some of our most charismatic species, as well as some plants and animals you may never have heard of. So as we are celebrating wildlife, let’s do whatever we can as citizens and as consumers to bring this illegal trade to an end.”
Join the World Wildlife Day Thunderclap here, and learn more about World Wildlife Day:
However, it’s not just the illegal trade which is a threat to endangered species. Legal trade in wildlife is extremely problematic. The most well-known example is the legal ivory trade, which has enabled ivory traffickers to profit from the deaths of tens of thousands of African elephants every year. Unfortunately, domestic ivory trade is still legal in China, the main ivory consumer. And there is legal ivory trade here in the United States, although we are starting to make progress in shutting it down.
Another legal trade issue is South Africa’s lion bone trade. A dwindling tiger population has turned out to be good news for lion farmers in South Africa, who are selling lion bones and skeletons to wildlife traffickers. The traffickers, generally based in Southeast Asia, then re-sell the lion bones as tiger bones.
And the exotic “pet” trade is fraught with abuse of legal loopholes. For an in-depth look at the horrific “legal” trade in wildlife (especially reptiles) for the exotic pet trade, I recommend reading The Lizard King by Bryan Christy.
Here’s to keeping wildlife where it belongs — in the wild!