It is estimated that two-thirds of the world’s wildlife population will have disappeared by 2020, over a period of 50 years. In a study by WWF, the statistics reveal that the rate of species loss is 100 times faster than what is considered a normal rate. There’s no question as to the cause. Human activity is fast pushing the world’s species out of existence.
By and large, environmental and conservation policies seem to hold a lower priority in government agendas while human development invariably takes centre stage. There is rhyme and reason for this- we need humans to thrive- but how do we ensure during the meantime that we will not be responsible for a mass extinction of species in this current human-dominated, Anthropocene, era?
Countries have aspiring goals. Species are becoming extinct. We need to perceive conservation as an intrinsic element of a nation’s development, of good economic policy. The case of elephant poaching makes the point: it’s apparently costing an approximate $25 million a year in loss of tourism in Africa. That’s a lot of dollars that could be invested back into development. Meanwhile, the illegal wildlife trade continues to operate, spinning around $20 billion a year and is responsible for the decimation of a significant proportion of the world’s wildlife. It comes just after the global drug and gun trade. This is no small thing.
The movement is not about the ‘bleeding heart lefties’ who tie themselves to trees and want to save animals. This is a highly complex network, fuelled with the kind of criminal intelligence that you would expect from warlords, terrorist groups, and powerful underground cartels. The trade has massive negative implications on a country’s economic and social development, political development, security- the list goes on. I.e., everything about it is just bad.
Loss in wildlife, loss in tourism, loss in national development, and we all lose.
With rising populations and more disposable income, the demand for a tiger paw, a bag of pangolin powder or an elephant tusk continues. It’s not over until demand = 0 and animals poached = 0.
We need to share intelligence, improve the judicial systems on wildlife protection laws, strengthen training of law enforcement agencies, and increase the drive to crackdown on people along the chain, from poachers to traders through smarter undercover operations and forensic science. We need to talk about this issue as it relates to human development- about people, society, in order for it to gain more support at world roundtables.
It’s clear that it’s not the kind of world we want. So, how fast can and will we act?