In 2012 Hilary Clinton named December 4th Wildlife Conservation Day. The purpose: to engage conservationists and inform people about the global conservation crisis. Wildlife crime is the biggest threat to wild elephants, tigers and rhinos. Driven by the black market’s voracious appetite for illegal parts and products, these animals are being slaughtered into extinction.
The black market for illegally trafficked animals is $7-10 billion annually –rivaled only by the illegal gun and drug trade. The ramifications of this reality are huge:
- As the animals are slaughtered, and wildlife populations decline, tourism falls and the impacted communities are robbed of income (wildlife attractions account for 20-40% of all global tourism).
- The profits that officials stand to make by turning a blind eye to the black market (or worse helping facilitate it) encourage corruption and undermine good governance.
- The loss of these animals robs future generations from ever being able to see elephants, rhinos, tigers and other animals in their natural habitat.
In the past century we have lost 97% of wild tigers and 95% of wild rhinos. In 2013 more than 20,000 African elephants were killed – and the population of elephants in Central Africa has fallen by 60% in the past 10 years.
Protecting these animals from extinction is critical to maintaining balanced eco-systems and biodiversity.
For instance, Elephants are integrally tied to biodiversity. Many seeds need to pass through an elephant’s digestive tract before they can germinate. The World Wildlife Fund says that at “least a third of tree species in central African forests rely on elephants in this way for distribution of seeds.” And, just by walking around elephants create clearings and gaps in the vegetation. This encourages both tree regeneration and the reduction of “bush cover to create an environment favorable to a mix of browsing and grazing animals.”
To help fight for elephants, tigers, rhinos and wildlife everywhere – spread the word and educate people about the ramifications of black market activity. Vow to never purchase products made from endangered wildlife – and urge friends and family members to do the same. If we cut off the end market demand, we can make measurable strides in combating poaching and in turn save animals from extinction.
By Bailey Schroeder, ResQwalk Founder + CEO
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