UN Observance: World Environment Day, June 5, 2016

On June 5, 2016, the UN commemorates World Environment Day under the theme “Go Wild For Life.”

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The booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and driving whole species to the brink of extinction. The killing and smuggling is also undermining economies and ecosystems, fueling organized crime, and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe.

This year’s theme for WED encourages you to celebrate all those species under threat and take action of your own to help safeguard them for future generations. This can be about animals or plants that are threatened within your local area as well as at the national or global level – many local extinctions will eventually add up to a global extinction! Whoever you are, and wherever you live, show zero-tolerance for the illegal trade in wildlife in word and deed, and make a difference.

Efforts of the international community

shutterstock_428734804Huge efforts to counter the illicit trade – including stronger policies, awareness campaigns and investments in community conservation and law enforcement – have scored some great successes. However, many species remain at risk and it will take a dedicated and sustained effort by each and every one of us to turn the tide.

WED case study: elephants and the ivory trade

According to UNEP, 170 tons of ivory were illegally exported out of Africa between 2009 and 2014.

Last April, the Kenyan government decided to carry out a grand gesture aimed at shocking the world into stopping the slaughter of elephants: It lit a historic bonfire, representing the largest-ever torching of ivory, burning more than 100 tons from thousands of dead elephants, dwarfing by seven times any stockpile burned before. Another 1.35 tons of rhino horn were also burned, representing the killing of about 340 of the endangered animals.

The pyres prepared in Nairobi contain about 16,000 tusks and pieces of ivory. On the black market, such a quantity of ivory could sell for over $131 million, and the rhino horn could raise as much as $105 million.

The NGO response

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people, has started its own initiative in response to a “skyrocketing demand for ivory” which has “sent poaching rates soaring, with an estimated one elephant killed every 15 minutes”.

The organization has launched the African Elephant Initiative to help scale up and expand its elephant conservation efforts.

The Initiative employs five key strategies to reverse the trend of the poaching crisis, centered around: Increasing security measures, securing elephant habitat, gaining local support, reducing ivory demand and engaging supporters.

The success of these elephant protection strategies has not been negligible:

  • TNC’s close partner in Kenya, the Northern Rangelands Trust, has reported that poaching in NRT community conservancies is now at the lowest level in three years!
  • Rangers that TNC supporters help equip and train in Zambia also succeeded in getting one of the country’s most notorious poachers caught, convicted and imprisoned.

To find out more about these elephant conservation strategies please click here.

What you can do to help commemorate World Environment Dayshutterstock_430635238

  • Build a team – Ask family, friends, colleagues, your community, environmental groups and local government bodies if they would like to organize an event with you.
  • Get informed – Find out what else is happening for WED at the international, national, regional and local levels. You can see some of these activities on our website and on Twitter under #worldenvironmentday
  • Support the theme – Figure out fun and interesting ways to link your activity or event to this year’s official theme, the illegal trade in wildlife, and its slogan ‘Go Wild for Life’.
  • Make a plan – Draw up a plan of action with a timetable for getting things done in time for June 5. If you are planning a public event, get permission or clearance from any relevant local authorities.
  • Why celebrate alone? Get visibility for your activities and attract others to join you by registering on our website.
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