Eight wildlife rangers recently lost their lives in four African countries according to reports in the Guardian newspaper. Some were killed by poachers, others died in terrible accidents. Each of them was performing an invaluable duty by protecting countryside, forests and wildlife. The tragic truth is that poaching and trafficking of wildlife is wrecking the natural world. Elephants and Pangolin, Tigers and Rhinos, as well as hundreds of others, are threatened by extinction in a global crime perpetrated on present and future generations.
If we are to avoid these catastrophic extinctions, our shared heritage needs to be protected through dynamic and urgent action. Action that badly needs to come today not tomorrow. Education is crucial. This is why the global theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day, held on 3 March, is “listen to the young voices”. It sharpens the necessity of nurturing responsibility and commitment in young people to end wildlife and forest crime.
We owe it to our children. This is an inter-generational burden handed down from adult to child. Activities performed in the hope that we can help turn back the gory tide of slaughter that is robbing our world of its intrinsic beauty. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime—UNODC—is doing its part. Last year, we issued the first World Wildlife Crime Report giving us a unique global understanding of how this crime has driven its roots deep into the world’s regions and countries.
UNODC is also working with others in the UN to ensure we are effective and efficient in our efforts. We have moved forward considerably in just a few short years, but more work is needed to strengthen criminal and preventive action, including through the UN conventions against Transnational Organized Crime and Corruption.
Every country must criminalise the possession of wildlife illegally sourced from anywhere in the world. The penalties must fit this serious crime, and serve as an enduring deterrent. But there are information gaps, as well as broad differences in the capacities of countries and in legislation. If we want a concerted, unified response, and the dire situation warrants it, these gaps must be swiftly filled. UNODC is assisting by working with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Secretariat, and our many other partners to support countries and communities to successfully tackle wildlife and forest crime.
Time is an enemy. Each day brings more news of wildlife massacres and forest destruction. As we look to build the alliances necessary to tackle the poachers and to develop the policies to educate and enlighten, we should appreciate that there are no second chances. What is lost today can never come back.