Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President of Born Free USA, a leader in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, and a board member of Species Survival Network (SSN), warned February 25, “We are presiding over a slide towards extinction for many of the world's most iconic species.” Roberts, along with members of the Born Free international team and Species Survival Network, will attend the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) March 3 to 14 in Bangkok, Thailand.
Will Travers OBE, the CEO of Born Free and President of Species Survival Network adds, "The situation is now so bad, the poaching and slaughter of wildlife now so inextricably linked to international organized crime syndicates, that without a dramatic step-change in our efforts and without the resources for effective species conservation, we shall, in my view, end up with a handful of 'wildlife fortresses' - heavily guarded National Reserves and Parks, protected by garrisons of armed rangers and wardens - and that's it."
The importance of this conference is underlined when statistics on the continuing loss of many species of animals due to poaching and international trade is reviewed. Here is a startling list supplied by born free of the dramatic loss of wildlife that is occurring.
- African elephants down by 30% in 20 years - there were 1.3 million in 1979, now there may be less than 400,000. Some countries could lose their elephants entirely within five years.
- 668 rhino of South Africa's 20,000 rhino poached in 2012 alone - up from just 13 in 2007.
- African lion numbers collapse by 50% to below 35,000 since 1980 and the trade in lion body parts grows in leaps and bounds.
- 3,500 wild tigers cling to survival, down from 100,000 just over a century ago, driven by poaching for their body parts.
- At least 38,000,000 sharks unsustainably caught for their fins, primarily for soup.
- Thousands of Manta Rays caught and traded for their gills which are used for medicinal purposes in the Far East.
- Approximately 600 Polar bears killed each year, of which 64% are commercially traded as skins.
- South Africa lost 668 rhino to poachers in 2012. So far in 2013 it has lost more than 100 - at a rate of two rhino per day. Kenya lost seven rhino to poachers in January.
- The CITES Secretariat estimate that 25,000 elephant were poached in 2012. Others, including Born Free, suggest the total may be more than 30,000 in the last 12 months.
- Duke University estimates African lions to number 35,000 or less. Born Free estimates the figure may be nearer 25,000 while some lion scientists believe the number to be as low as 15,000.
- The Shark Trust reports that between 26,000,000 and 73,000,000 million sharks are traded for fins each year (based on 2006 figures).
- According to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) two thirds of Polar bear populations (estimated to be 20,000-25,000) could disappear by 2050.
- Traders report a steep rise in the Manta Ray gills trade which are now reportedly worth $680 a kilo.
- Of the nine recognized tiger subspecies, three are now extinct and some countries, notably Loas and Vietnam, may have less than 20 tigers surviving in the wild. China refuses to close down its notorious 'tiger farms.'
According to Roberts, "This is a tragic state of affairs. We are witnessing the decimation of some of the world’s most beautiful creatures and it must stop. The public is led to believe that the natural world is holding its own, and that is far from the truth. For some species, the question is not whether they will go extinct in the wild in my daughter’s lifetime, but in mine.”
"The resources and the forces we have at our disposal to resist the tide of poaching are simply not enough,” said Travers. "Until the international community recognizes the need to meet this threat head-on, then endangered wild animals will lose their lives, people will be murdered, local communities will be destabilized, and environments will be destroyed.
Keith Sanderson is host of the new Pet Life Radio Program "Max A Pooch's Awesome Animals Advocates, the program created for animal lovers dedicated to and about animal advocates and their advocacies. Sanderson has written more than 75 articles for Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner, and is the human companion of Max A Pooch the Canine Superhero to the Environment.