By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
Today is World Wildlife Conservation Day, which is recognized each year on December 4th. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of the plight of wild creatures across the globe, and is one of my greatest passions in life.
There Has Never Been a Greater Need
There are many organizations all over the world working to protect and conserve wildlife, threatened species and habitats, but there's always a need for more people to get involved. Protecting wildlife is the responsibility of all of us, in every country, across all continents.
We must work together to fight wildlife trafficking and preserve endangered species. Efforts are underway in many locations to protect and restore species and their habitats, help local communities conserve the natural resources necessary for their survival, and reduce the production and consumption of illegal wildlife products.
"World wildlife conservation is a global environmental movement that aims to preserve and protect the natural world and its inhabitants.
The world's best loved species are being slaughtered by widespread and dangerous criminal networks. Driven by a voracious demand for illegal animal parts and products, the black market in wildlife rivals illegal arms and drugs. Increasingly, wildlife traffickers are the same kingpins involved in trafficking people and arms and narcotics.
Wildlife Conservation Day seeks to raise awareness about the detrimental security, economic, and environmental effects of wildlife poaching and trafficking; discourage consumer demand for products made from endangered species; and demonstrate efforts by citizens, activists, private corporations, and governments to bring an end to the illicit wildlife trade."1
On an individual basis, we can educate ourselves about the issues facing endangered animals and how we can avoid purchasing products that contribute to the problem.
Wildlife Crime Has Reached An All-Time High
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), wildlife crime is the worst it's been in over 50 years. It's now the most urgent threat to three of the world's most magnificent species — tigers, elephants and rhinos.
"Illegal wildlife trade has exploded to meet increasing demand for elephant ivory, rhino horns, and tiger products, particularly in Asia. Controlled by dangerous crime syndicates, wildlife is trafficked much like drugs or weapons. Wildlife criminals often operate with impunity, making the trade a low-risk/high-profit business. Today, it is the fifth most profitable illicit trade in the world, estimated at up to $10 billion annually."2
The WWF is working to protect wildlife by:
- Pushing governments to protect threatened animal populations by increasing law enforcement, imposing strict deterrents, reducing demand for endangered species products and honoring international commitments made under CITES.
- Speaking up on behalf of those on the frontlines being threatened by armed poachers so they are properly equipped, trained and compensated.
- Reducing demand for illegal wildlife parts and products by encouraging others to ask questions and get the facts before buying any wildlife or plant product.
You can help WWF efforts by electronically signing a pledge to stop wildlife crime and commit to preserving nature's beauty for future generations. By signing the pledge, you're committing that you will:
- Refuse to buy any illegal wildlife products because demand for such products drives poaching
- Advocate in support of rangers and others on the front lines of conservation
- Share your passion about stopping wildlife crime with your friends and family
- Urge the U.S. government to continue championing efforts to stop wildlife crime and trophy hunting at home and abroad
- Stand with WWF and help stop wildlife crime
How You Can Help: 5 Pro Tips
"Wildlife conservation is a diverse and complex issue, but just because there is no quick and easy fix shouldn't mean that we avoid taking steps in the right direction."3 Here are Pod Volunteer's top five tips for those who want to help:4
1. Avoid unsustainable palm oil. Unfortunately, palm oil is now used in a whole range of foods and products and the farms that produce these oils are often destroying jungle habitats. Every hour, 300 football fields of precious remaining forest are being ploughed across Southeast Asia to make way for new palm oil plantations to meet the growing demand.
To help to protect the orangutans and the forests, you should check to see how your skin care products or favorite biscuits rate on the Rainforest Foundation palm oil guide. If your favorite brands are using palm oil, get in touch with them and let them know your thoughts!
2. Be aware of animal welfare issues while you are on vacation. Promote responsible, informed, guilt-free and humane tourism. Wildlife tourism and visiting animal attractions when you're on vacation is as popular as ever, but unfortunately, tourists can often unintentionally have a negative impact on the animals they visit. These are top five ways to enjoy animals while on vacation.
3. Educate, inspire and challenge! Spread the word by speaking to your friends and family about wildlife conservation. You can share posts on your social media networks to help spread the word. Don't forget to let others know when you sign online petitions to help protect wildlife. If you decide to have a meat-free day once a week, challenge your friends and family to do it, too!
4. Green and responsible travel. Joining a conservation volunteer project is a great way to learn first-hand about wildlife conservation in Belize, Peru, South Africa, Madagascar, Thailand or elsewhere in the world. Here are top 10 tips for responsible travel to help minimize your impact.
5. Never stop learning. Being inquisitive is extremely valuable. It's important to ask questions about how your lifestyle is impacting the planet. In an increasingly globalized world, our impact is more far reaching than ever before. Daily choices, such as avoiding face wash with plastic microbeads that end up in the marine food chain, or buying reusable bags instead of plastic bags that are harmful to the environment, all have a positive effect on the world.