Observing World Wildlife Conservation Day

Honored on December 4th, World Wildlife Conservation Day is a time to raise awareness about wildlife poaching and trafficking.

This dramatic problem requires action by everyone (citizens, activists, corporations and governments) if we wish to end the illegal trade of wildlife.

black and white ape pictureSpecifically, individuals are invited to sign the Wildlife Pledge to respect and protect wild animals around the planet.

The first World Wildlife Conservation Day was officially recognized on December 4, 2012 by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

During the “Wildlife Trafficking and Conservation: A Call to Action” event held at the State Department in November 2012, Secretary Hilary Clinton put forward a strategy to address the global problem of wildlife trafficking saying, “Wildlife cannot be manufactured. And once it’s gone, it cannot be replenished. Those who profit from it illegally are not just undermining our borders and our economies, they are truly stealing from the next generation.”

The Problem of Illegal Trafficking

black and white elephant imageThe illegal trafficking of wildlife rivals human and drug trafficking in size. Driven by high profit margins, many animal products (like the rhino horn) are worth more than either gold or cocaine.

The problem of illegal trafficking is real and affects hundreds of different species.

Probably the most famous example of a wild animal that suffers at the hands of poachers is the elephant. Despite the fact that international ivory trading has been illegal since 1990, elephant numbers are still declining precipitously due to the continued high demand for ivory.

Sharks are another case in point. Shark numbers are declining rapidly because of the practice of ‘finning’—removing shark fins, which are in high demand in places like China where shark fin soup is a delicacy.

Other marine life that suffer at the hands of poachers are the sea turtles, which are coveted for their leather, shell, meat and eggs.

Here are some of the shocking numbers:

  • black and white giraffe imageThe world’s wildlife population decreased approximately 52 percent in size between 1970 and 2010, while the human population doubled in size during the same period—World Wildlife Fund.
  • About 30,000 species per year are being driven to extinction (about 3 per hour)—Harvard University.
  • Ninety-six elephants are killed each day in Africa for their ivory—Wildlife Conservation Society.
  • More than 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins—World Wildlife Fund.
  • Poachers take more than 38 million animals every year from Brazil to meet global demand for illegal wildlife. Many of these animals are birds who will become caged pets for people in Rio, Sydney, Madrid, and New York—National Geographic.
  • In the last 5 years in Canada, more than one million seals have been killed in annual seal hunts. The main hunting target is the harp seal; 97 percent of harp seals killed are less than 3 months old—Humane Society of the United States.
  • Only 450,000 elephants and 25,000 rhinos remain on the African continent due to poaching. If this trend continues, both of these species will be extinct from their core habitat within the next 20 years—African Wildlife Foundation.

Saving Species With Science

black and white hippo imageDespite these grim numbers, there is still light at the end of the tunnel with many scientists working tirelessly to save wildlife around the world.

For example, at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, a wide array of global field sites have been set up to encourage the long-term conservation of endangered species—from the gorilla to the snow leopard.

Probably the best examples of the Institute’s work are their projects devoted to the California condor and their efforts to reestablish a viable population of white rhinos using preserved cells. (The white rhino species is nearly extinct, a fact underlined when the last male in the wild died in May 2018).

Another excellent example is the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Founded by Dr. Laurie Marker in 1990, the CCF is dedicated to saving cheetahs in the wild.

Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal and, unfortunately, Africa’s most endangered big cat. To help protect them, the CCF has created several integrated programs that address the threats to cheetahs and their ecosystem.

The Earth Biogenome Project is another powerful illustration of the worldwide scientific community coming together to ensure the health of the planet; the project’s big vision is to protect biodiversity and sustain human societies across the globe.

Finally, there is the work of Samuel Wasser, chair of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, who has developed a method of using DNA to identify the geographic origins of seized tusks and map out exactly where poaching is most rampant.

All of these projects demonstrate that endangered species protection is entirely possible with a bit of awareness, organization, and integrated effort.

How to Honor World Wildlife Conservation Day

Here are 5 ways to honor this important commemoration:

  1. Dr. Rosane Oliveira and Chickpea PoppersTake the Pledge: Sign the World Wildlife Fund petition to stop wildlife crime. You can find it here, and encourage your friends and family to sign too.
  2. Donate: If you can, make a donation to an organization that is dedicated to conserving and protecting biodiversity on our planet. Serious organizations include the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Alliance, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Animal Welfare Institute, and the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy.
  3. Say No: Never buy wildlife products such as ivory, regardless of when it was made or whether or not it is legal where you are in the world.
  4. Avoid Unsustainable Ingredients: Stop buying foods that use unsustainable ingredients like palm oil, which contribute to deforestation and and decreased biodiversity. The reality is that eating palm oil is not good for you, given that it is very high in saturated fats. Avoiding it will help both your health and the environment.
  5. Eat Plant-Based: Nothing is more planet- or wildlife-friendly than following a plant-based lifestyle. To give you some inspiration, here is a great recipe for Chickpea Poppers.

Let’s join hands to protect the precious planet we live on.