By Will Travers
Over the last two years or more Born Free and its supporters, the conservation movement, in fact, the world at large, has become increasingly alarmed by the unfolding of a wildlife tragedy – the decimation of iconic species fuelled by the trade in their body parts.
As many as 50,000 elephants, more than 1,000 rhino lost in 2013 alone. Half of Africa’s lions gone in the last three decades. Just 3,200 tigers clinging to survival.
What could we do?
Piece by piece a picture emerged portraying in detail the challenges we need to overcome. Improved wildlife law enforcement; ending consumer demand; increased public education; better intelligence gathering; effective judicial training; the introduction of deterrent sentencing…….. each on their own not enough to tackle the problem but together a comprehensive agenda designed to turn the tide.
And the game-changer?
The realisation that illegal wildlife trade, like any other serious organised criminal activity, destroys people’s lives, disrupts communities, increases instability and, linked as it is with the terror-driven activities of rebel militias as Al-Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army, has the potential to hurt and damage us all.
That is why, although I am entirely convinced that the world’s leaders do care about the future of species, it has become a political priority and why the UK government, led by the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, convened the High Level Meeting on Illegal Wildlife Trade on 13th February and the results of that Conference – real political will, international co-ordination, increased resources, the destruction of a number of ivory stockpiles, a zero-tolerance approach to illegal trade and the contemplation that hitherto legal trade should be halted when the risk to the species are so great, lead me to believe that a line has been drawn – so far and no further.
Delegates to that Conference have nailed their colours to the mast. Now we must make sure they deliver on their promises. Every step we take from now on must incrementally make the world safer and more secure for wildlife under threat, for habitats under pressure and for communities that live on the edge.
Born Free is and has been at the forefront of this fight for more than a quarter of a century. We will be here leading the fight into the future and I hope that each every one of you, our loyal supporters, will be with us as we play our part in securing a future for wildlife – and for people – worth living.