UNEP Congratulates Yaya Touré on BBC African Footballer of the Year Win

Mr. Touré in October pledged to combat the illegal ivory trade that sees thousands of African elephants killed each year as he was unveiled as a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador.

Nairobi, 3 December 2013 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today congratulated its newest Goodwill Ambassador Yaya Touré, who was on Monday named BBC African Footballer of the Year 2013, for the latest accolade in a glittering football career.

Mr. Touré in October pledged to combat the illegal ivory trade that sees thousands of African elephants killed each year as he was unveiled as a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador.

To win the BBC award, the Manchester City and Côte d'Ivoire star was nominated by 44 football experts from Africa and then beat off competition from another four players in a vote by fans. It is the first time that Mr. Touré has won this particular award, although he was named African Football of the Year in 2011 and 2012 by the Confederation of African Football.

"UNEP is extremely pleased for Mr. Touré, who this year is being recognized for his efforts both on the field and off," said UNEP Director of Communications and Spokesperson Nick Nuttall. "His footballing talents are undisputed, but perhaps less well-known is his personal commitment to an environmentally sustainable lifestyle."

'Mr. Touré is a powerful African voice speaking against the widespread killing of elephants, and we hope that his ever-growing status as an internationally renowned sportsman will help inspire action to conserve these beautiful creatures for their own sake and for their role in a thriving tourism sector, which has its part to play in eradicating poverty and generating livelihoods and incomes."

Increased poaching and loss of habitats are decimating African elephant populations, according to a report entitled "Elephants in the Dust - The African Elephant Crisis", released in Bangkok in March at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The UN estimates that over 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in monitored sites in 2011 alone. Overall figures may be much higher. The extent of the killings now far exceeds the natural population growth rates, putting elephants at risk of extinction, especially in Central and Western Africa. But even previously secure populations, such as those in East Africa, are now under threat.

The Elephants in the Dust report-produced by UNEP, CITES, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC)-says that the illegal ivory trade has tripled since 1998.

Criminal networks are responsible for the illegal trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia. Large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia have more than doubled since 2009 and reached an all-time high in 2011.

Notes to Editors

To download the Elephants in the Dust report, please visit the following link: http://www.grida.no/publications/rr/elephants/

About UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors

UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors help generate public awareness and understanding of environmental causes, as well as inspire broad, positive, committed action in support of UNEP's mandate and priorities. Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen, US actor Don Cheadle, French photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand, Chinese actress Li Binging and Indian economist Pavan Sukhdev currently serve as international ambassadors. National ambassadors include musicians Suzanna Owiyo and Eric Wainaina, both from Kenya, and Ragheb Subhi Alama from Lebanon. 

Visit the website for more details: http://www.unep.org/gwa/

For more information, please contact:

UNEP Newsdesk (Nairobi)

+254 723 939 620, unepnewsdesk@unep.org

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Director of Communications and Spokesperson

+254 733 632755, +41 795965737, nick.nuttall@unep.org