Act now on poaching: Today’s high-level conference on wildlife crime is welcome. But governments must act as well as talk

The elephant is not the only rare species to be threatened by a wave of poaching that is increasingly linked to global organised crime

Share

Thanks to Independent readers, the campaign to save Africa’s wild elephants from extinction is making real progress. Through your generosity, £450,000 has been raised – enough, according to the charity that is the beneficiary of the appeal, appreciably to tilt the balance. “I truly believe that 2014 will be the year the tide turned for elephants, forever,” notes Dr Max Graham, who runs Space for Giants. “We have already experienced a change on the ground in northern Kenya since Christmas.”

Such efforts cannot come too soon. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were an estimated 10 million elephants in Africa. But in the years since, their habitat has been squeezed by steadily expanding human activities; and the recent surge in demand for ivory in fast-growing Asian countries has led to an unprecedented spike in poaching. The result is that there are now barely half a million wild elephants left and they continue to be killed at an appalling rate; some 36,000 of them last year alone. Without action, experts fear this noble creature could be extinct in Africa within as little as a decade.

But the elephant is not the only rare species to be threatened by a wave of poaching that is increasingly linked to global organised crime. Demand for rhino horn is having a similarly devastating effect on rhino populations, with more than 1,000 animals killed in South Africa last year. Big cats, especially in Asia, are also in peril. Of six remaining sub-species of tiger, all are endangered, two of them critically so.

Against such a backdrop, the high-profile conference starting in London today – and given a fillip by outspoken royal backing – is to be warmly welcomed. As world leaders and heads of state gather, the issue of wildlife crime is – rightly – as high up the agenda as it has ever been. But it is not enough for generous individuals to donate money and for governments and experts to talk. What is needed now, more desperately than ever, is co-ordinated action.

There is no mystery as to what needs to be done. First, better training must be provided for the rangers who are the first line of defence against poaching and who, in current circumstances, are too often losing their lives. But it is also important to approach the problem from the demand as well as the supply side. That means instituting a full-scale education programme, in Asia in particular, to ensure that potential consumers are better informed about the gruesome, and devastating, reality behind their acquisitions.

Then there is the business itself to consider. Concerted effort must be made not only to uphold the existing global ban on trade in ivory but also to tackle the endemic corruption that greases the entire chain of illegal activity from poacher to purchaser. Finally, both money and thought must go into helping communities in poaching hotspots to develop sustainable livelihoods that offer a real alternative.

A challenge? Certainly. But not one of these requirements is an impossible one. What is needed, though, is a continuing focus at the highest levels. And if the bar is high, the stakes are even more so. Do nothing, and some of Earth’s most glorious and elusive creatures will be lost forever. Time is running out.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The reign of the cupcake may be at an end  

Gluten-free diets reveal more about Western anxieties than they do about the protein

Memphis Barker
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence