By Kim Lewis
World Wildlife Day is celebrated annually on March 3. While it is a day to celebrate wildlife, this year international organizations and governments are calling attention to the devastating affects poaching has had on the world’s animal species. The theme is “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime.”
The African Wildlife Foundation has released a downloadable infographic which reveals the scale of what it says is a multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade and its impact on many of Africa’s species.
“I think the last two and a half years have seen a lot of us getting together in round tables, high level meetings, discussing, and sharing and agreeing on action plans. So what we are going to be doing this year is to role out those plans on the ground, in the field and be able to operationalize the issues that we’ve discussed to be done,” emphasized Jimmiel Mandima, African Wildlife Foundation director of partner relations and program design.
For example, he said AWF has launched an Urgent Response Fund where ten million dollars has been raised to invest in on-the-ground operations to stop the killing of animals such as elephants and rhinos, and to stop the trafficking of ivory and rhino horns by using sniffer dogs at transit ports.
In addition, the money will help train law enforcement officers, and arrest and prosecute those involved in illegal trade.
AWF said there are encouraging signs of progress in the fight against poaching and trafficking.
“We have worked with the Kenya Wildlife Service and started using sniffer dogs at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. And we are looking at rolling this out to Mombasa airport, and then in Tanzania doing that in Dar Es Salaam, and in Zanzibar, and looking at other countries as we scale out to really roll it out across sub-Saharan Africa,” explained Mandima.
Another example where progress is being made is in Zambia, which houses Africa’s second largest animal refuge, Kafue National Park . The park and areas surrounding it are known to have the largest number of elephants in the world. AWF says authorities are capturing a number of elephant poachers and traffickers in this area.
“So what is happening in Zambia is we are working very closely with Zambia wildlife authorities and other NGO’s to track these poachers and any illicit traders. And we have registered quite some achievement when we arrested one of the syndicate leaders who was out there last year,” said Mandima.
AWF also notes a survey out from China shows that the public is becoming more aware of the dangers posed by poaching and trafficking to wildlife populations. It also highlights public support for more government intervention to protect elephants and rhinos and to put an end to the illegal trade of ivory.