Let’s Go Wild For Wildlife

13 May 2014, By Ashley Van Heerden, Tunza Youth Advisor for Africa

This was the poignant call to action by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on World Wildlife Day. The reality is that wildlife is under threat and it up to us to protect it. The illegal wildlife trade, a billion dollar industry which today is the fifth largest illicit trade in the world, is responsible for a surge in the heinous slaughter of some of nature’s most majestic species. The stark reality of dwindling populations of some of the most spectacular species of flora and fauna is a reality that calls for swift action.

Of all species being edged closer to extinction, it is the white rhino that has captured my attention most. In South Africa, a country that is home to 73% of the world’s wild rhinos, a rhino is illegally slaughtered every 11 hours. It is sad that the plight of the rhino is not unique; it is an archetype for countless endangered species on the brink of extinction, as a result of greed induced human action, and in many cases inhumane action. It was in 1973 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that states formally recognised “that wild fauna and flora in their many beautiful and varied forms are an irreplaceable part of the natural systems of the earth which must be protected for this and the generations to come". This recognition rings true now more than ever, as more species become critically endangered.

With the largest youth population to ever have existed, as young people we must take over the mantle, and accept responsibility for the protection of not only vulnerable, but all wildlife. It is incumbent upon our generation to galvanize a critical mass that will hold leaders to account for their slow action in combatting wildlife crime, and also hold our fellow citizens to account. We must call for increased punitive measures for perpetrators, and increased investment in the protection of our wildlife.

History will judge us harshly if we don’t act in defense of wildlife now. It is in the run up to the first session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, that we must go wild for wildlife, by urging our leaders to act decisively in combatting wildlife crimes.

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