Wild and Precious Exhibit Travels from Bangkok to Nairobi and Beijing Thu, Nov 7, 2013

The Exhibition will now find a home at both the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya and at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China.

Two calves and an adult elephant drink © Laurent Baheux

Nairobi, 06 November 2013-Vibrantly-coloured snakes, magnificent elephants, and iconic apes are among the fauna featured in the "Wild and Precious" International Airport Exhibition unveiled today in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Exhibition was originally conceived to mark the 40th anniversary of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and was launched at the 16th Conference of the Parties to CITES in Bangkok on 3 March 2013.

Following the Conference, UNEP signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Shanghai, China in support of wildlife demand reduction outreach. As a result of this agreement, "Wild and Precious" is being displayed in 5 central city metro stations.

The Exhibition will now find a home at both the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya and at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China.

This is the first-ever collaborative awareness initiative between UNEP, the GoodPlanet Foundation-a French NGO founded by photographer and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, Yann Arthus-Bertrand-and CITES at Beijing Capital International Airport. The resources that Beijing has committed are unprecedented, with the commercial value of media and production in the millions of dollars.

Seven of the world's most renowned nature photographers, including Laurent Baheux, Sandra Bartocha, Heidi and Hans-Jurgen Koch, Mark Laita, Brian Skerry and Yann Arthus-Bertrand, have taken part in the initiative.

The "Wild and Precious" exhibition aims to celebrate the beauty of wildlife. The goal is for these striking images to encourage and inspire the world's citizens to consume responsibly products that are derived from wild animals and plants and used by people in their daily lives for food, housing, health care, ecotourism, cosmetics or fashion. The line that calls people to this action is:  Be Informed. Make Smart Choices.

"It is within our collective power to conserve our most precious species in the wild. Through the Wild and Precious exhibition, we are raising the awareness of consumers about the impacts their daily decisions can have on wildlife and on people", said John Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General, adding: "through informed consumer choices we can have a huge impact on the survival of species in the wild and the livelihoods of rural communities".

"Rising wildlife crime in Kenya and other parts of Africa is an issue of global concern, impacting many regions of the world. Profits from the high price of elephant ivory and rhino horn are being linked to criminal networks involved in the illegal drugs trade, illegal logging, and human trafficking according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.  

In May of this year, film actress and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Li Bingbing-one of China's most popular celebrities and a rising Hollywood star-visited Kenya to witness the impacts of the poaching crisis for herself and to urge greater effort by governments and consumers to combat illegal wildlife trade.

Li Bingbing said citizens and the business community in Asia can play a crucial role in preventing the illegal killing of elephants in Africa by saying no to ivory products. The major recent spike in elephant killings-now at their highest levels in around a decade-is threatening the future of some elephant populations and the livelihoods of millions of people linked to tourism.

More recently, International football star Yaya Touré pledged to combat the illegal ivory trade that sees thousands of African elephants slaughtered each year as he was unveiled as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

"Côte d'Ivoire's national team is named 'The Elephants' after these magnificent creatures that are so full of power and grace, yet in my country alone there may be as few as 800 individuals left," Touré said. "Poaching threatens the very existence of the African elephant and if we do not act now we could be looking at a future in which this iconic species is wiped out."

"I became a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador to spread the message that this poaching and other forms of wildlife crime is not only a betrayal of our responsibility to safeguard threatened species, but a serious threat to the security, political stability, economy, natural resources and cultural heritage of many countries," Touré added.

The International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) partners are working together to improve collaboration between customs, police forces and national governments to tackle this black market. UNEP is supporting this initiative.

"The illegal trade in wildlife and timber can only be eradicated if the demand for contraband products disappears. Messages by Goodwill Ambassadors like Yann Arthus-Bertrand, via Wild and Precious, Li Bingbing and Yaya Touré work to highlight the multiple costs of illegal trade and can reach millions of consumers, and encourage sustainable choices that can support the survival of species and ecosystems", added Mr. Steiner. 

Global Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Timber

Estimates of the global illicit trade in wildlife put it to be worth up to USD $20 billion per year, making it the fourth largest illegal trade in the world after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

Reptiles, sharks, great apes, and certain timber species are among the flora and fauna most affected by illegal trade. 

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 an estimate of 25,000 African elephants were killed in 2011 and that the illegal ivory trade has tripled since 1998.

Research by UNEP and INTERPOL estimates that between 50 to 90 percent of logging in key tropical countries of the Amazon basin, Central Africa and South East Asia is being carried out by organized crime. This is threatening attempts to reduce deforestation as well as efforts to combat climate change under initiatives such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD or REDD+).

Globally, illegal logging now accounts for between 15 and 30 percent of the overall trade, and is estimated at between US $30 - $100 million annually

Between 30 and 40 percent of the export value of wood-based products from Southeast Asia is illegal (UNODC, 2013).

In Southeast Asia, approximately one-forth of the total revenues from Transnational Organized Crime is made by Environmental Crimes (UNODC, 2013).

The export value of wood-based products form Southeast Asia is the second biggest criminal flow originating in Southeast Asia (UNODC, 2013).

In East Asia and the Pacific, profits from illegal wildlife trade are conservatively estimated at US $2.5 billion annually. UNODC calculated in 2011 that the total value of the illegal global wildlife trade was between US $8 billion and $10 billion annually (excluding timber and marine wildlife). 

A recent UNEP study showed that almost 3,000 live great apes are being taken from the forests of Africa and Southeast Asia each year. The main markets for the illegal trade in chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans include the tourist entertainment industry, disreputable zoos, and individuals who wish to buy great apes as exotic pets. 

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.

Addressing the Crisis

The international community is looking at measures to address the crisis, including collaborative action to combat the illegal trade in wildlife and timber, which would include:

  • Improved law-enforcement across the entire illegal ivory supply chain;
  • Strengthened national legislative frameworks;
  • Training of enforcement officers in the use of tracking, intelligence networks and innovative techniques, such as forensic analysis;
  • Better international collaboration across range states, transit countries and consumer markets;
  • Action to fight collusive corruption, identifying syndicates and reducing demand.

Other actions include the establishment of Project Leaf (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests), a recent consortium of forests and climate initiatives that aims to combat illegal logging and organized forest crime. The project is led by the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme and the UNEP's collaborative centre in Norway (GRID-Arendal), with support from the Government of Norway. 



« Beauty is the driving force of my work as a photographer, and of my fellow photographers who kindly contributed to this exhibition. Beauty moves the heart, it opens the mind. Beauty arouses empathy towards humans and other living species. As a photographer but also as the president of a NGO which works towards making the world a better place, I hope that the beauty of these pictures will inspire you with the will to take action to protect biodiversity. »


A new era of global cooperation to conserve and sustainably use wildlife was launched on March 3rd 1973 at the World Wildlife Conference in Washington D.C. with the signing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Thus far, none of the 35 000CITES-listed species has been driven to extinction as a result of commercial exploitation authorised by CITES, and world leaders expressly recognized the importance of the convention at the 20th Anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit (Rio+20). It is an inspiring example of successful international cooperation and national action that gives us hope for a sustainable future in which humans and wildlife coexist in harmony. 


« Biodiversity-the wealth of species of plants and animals on the planet-has for millennia been part of the spiritual dimension of humanity and a source of joy and beauty for communities and citizens. But over the past few years, the central role of species as building blocks of ecosystems and thus human well-being has come to the fore. In this 40th anniversary year, amidst challenges and opportunities, let the world renew and recommit to the mission of CITES in order for it to fulfill its important role as a supportive pillar of a transition to a Green Economy and a sustainable 21st century. » ACHIM STEINER UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.

Notes to Editors

UNEP, in collaboration with key partners including CITES, UNODC and FAO, is strengthening and focusing its work to further assess global and regional environmental threats caused by the illegal trade in wildlife and timber, to provide policy advice on such threats, and to further catalyze and promote international cooperation and action to address the threats caused by the illegal trade in wildlife and timber. Such efforts build on four decades of UNEP's work in support of the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife and forest resources.

The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) is a collaborative effort by the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and the World Customs Organization (WCO) to strengthen international cooperation to combat wildlife and forest crime.

A range of regional initiatives have also been developed and adopted. In Africa, the Lusaka Agreement on Co-operative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora was adopted in 1994 to support member states and collaborating partners in reducing and ultimately eliminating illegal trade in wild fauna and flora. 

In other regions, Regional Wildlife Enforcement Groups/Networks have been developed (in North America, Europe, Southeast and South Asia, and the Middle East), which aim to facilitate cross-border cooperation among agencies involved in preventing and suppressing wildlife crime. 

Regional Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) processes have also been initiated in South-East Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North Asia. The FLEG processes provide soft legislation which aims to improve governance in the forest sector and to strengthen cooperation to address illegal logging and timber trade.


With 179 Member States, CITES remains one of the world's most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora. Thousands of species are internationally traded and used by people in their daily lives for food, housing, health care, ecotourism, cosmetics or fashion.

CITES regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment. The CITES permit system seeks to ensure that international trade in listed species is sustainable, legal and traceable.

CITES was signed in Washington D.C. on 3 March 1973.

For more information, please contact: 

Nick Nuttall, Director, UNEP Division of Communications and Public Information on Tel +254 733 632 755 / +41 795965737, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

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