Friday, March 3, was the third anniversary of World Wildlife Day and to mark it the World Wildlife Fund UK (WWF) has called for five key achievements it hopes will come to pass before it reaches its fifth anniversary in 2019.
“We are at a pivotal point for many of the most fragile species worldwide,” said Heather Sohl, WWF’s chief adviser on wildlife, in a statement. “We have witnessed some significant victories over the last year but long term success requires a major shift in attitudes, actions, and approaches.”
In the last year alone, there have been some wonderful success stories in wildlife conservation. 2016 saw the giant panda no longer classified as “endangered”, instead re-listed as “vulnerable” on the endangered species list as its numbers had recovered to a significant degree. Tiger numbers in the wild increased for the first time in 100 years, too. All trade in pangolins was made illegal worldwide, and, significantly, China announced plans to close its ivory markets by the end of 2017.
But there is still much to do. So, with that in mind, the WWF calls for these five key – and, importantly, achievable – goals to be reached by the time World Wildlife Day reaches its fifth year in March 2019.
A Reduction To The 67 Percent Decline In Species Populations Projected In The Living Planet Report 2016
According to the WWF’s biennial Living Planet Report 2016, the world is set to lose two-thirds of its wildlife by 2020 if we stay on our current course, with the illegal trade in wildlife and illegal poaching the greatest threats to endangered species.
The 2016 CITES Wildlife Summit saw new protections for pangolins, sharks, rays, and African grey parrots, as well as seeing off attempts by South Africa to resume the ivory trade. The WWF is working with governments worldwide, local communities, and NGOs to ensure 2018’s report has better projections and a better understanding of how we can stop the decline.
A Ban On The UK’s Domestic Ivory Trade
On average, one African elephant is killed by poachers every 25 minutes, so urgent action needs to be taken to control the key domestic ivory markets that fuel the demand and trade. Currently in the UK, it is illegal to sell ivory from elephants killed after 1947. 2016 saw it close a loophole that allowed dealers to claim items are antique without providing documentary evidence of their age. However, that doesn’t stop the falsification of documents or artificial aging of ivory, and the WWF is urging the UK to place a blanket ban on domestic trade.
Introduce Sentencing Guidelines For Wildlife Crime In The UK
Wildlife crime is the fourth-largest international illegal trade in the world – following only drugs, arms, and the trafficking of humans – worth an estimated £15 billion a year. Yet, in the UK, there is currently no sentencing guidelines for wildlife crimes.
According to the WWF, an individual convicted of possessing illegal tiger claws and teeth worth an estimated £17,000 received a £60 fine and a court order of 120 hours of unpaid work. Sentencing guidelines need to reflect the severity of these crimes.
Achieve Zero Poaching Of Elephants In Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania, Africa
The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania – one of Africa's largest wilderness regions – has lost nearly 90 percent of its elephants in less than 40 years. In the mid-1970s, nearly 110,000 elephants lived in the Selous World Heritage site, but by 2014, only 15,217 elephants remained. The WWF sees this as a priority, calling on the public to back the campaign to stop the illegal activities and reach zero poaching by 2018.
Global Agreement To Close All Tiger Farms Across Asia
There are 200 known captive breeding programs across Asia, holding approximately 7,000-8,000 tigers, according to an investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency. And yet, incredibly, a WWF survey last year revealed 76 percent of the UK public weren’t aware they existed. At least not until officials raided a notorious Tiger Temple in Thailand and found 40 frozen tiger cubs, ready to be sold for parts, which made the news worldwide.
The WWF is calling on all tiger farms for tourism to be shut down by 2019, as well as the illegal breeding and trading of parts for traditional medicine.
“World Wildlife Day is a celebration of the weird and wonderful life that shares our planet,” Sohl concluded. “The pressures on our planet are greater than ever and this could have devastating consequences for wildlife unless we act now.”