Environment

Conservation groups work as guardian of wildlife

'Wildlife crime undermines rule of law, threatens peace, security and facilitated by corruption,' says expert

Burak Bir   | 31.07.2020
Conservation groups work as guardian of wildlife

ANKARA

Battling a host of obstacles and challenges to protecting nature, environmental organizations continue to make efforts to defend wildlife and the planet.

The illegal trade in wildlife, loss of native animal and plant species, and the destruction of nature are among the world's urgent ongoing problems that should be solved, as healthy and sustainable human life and the planet depend on healthy nature.

Founded in 1903, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is the world's oldest wildlife conservation organization that focuses on protecting biodiversity in more than 40 countries.

Joanna Elliot, senior director of conservation partnerships at FFI, said the group works with local partners as well as communities to provide conservation "hand-in-hand with generating and protecting livelihoods."

"We are engaged in action to stop the illegal wildlife trade around the world. This work has been given added focus by the emergence of COVID-19, a disease which originated in wild animals and jumped the species barrier to humans," she told Anadolu Agency.

FFI also closely works to protect threatened species and supports effective law enforcement at the national and international level.

"In terms of priority, we identify gaps in conservation around the world, which can mean working to protect iconic species or less-heralded species, such as tulips or geckos," she said.

Characterizing the wildlife trade as an "increasingly professional business," Elliot said working with local communities and making interventions at the source are key to tackling the issue, which means "investing in alternative livelihoods so people aren’t reliant on illegal wildlife trade for money to support their families and awareness-raising programs."

Highlighting how the COVID-19 pandemic has "seriously" affected many FFI's partner organizations, she said her organization created a FFI Partner Crisis Support Fund to cushion the virus' fallout on local NGOs and wildlife.

As part of the fund, the FFI has distributed more than $1 million to the organizations around the world, including Kenya, Vietnam, and Romania to protect wild species and help local people who play key a role in defending wildlife, she added.

Wildlife crimes threaten peace, security

Established nearly 60 years ago in Switzerland by naturalists and ornithologists, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is working to protect nature, raise awareness on species conservation and the threat to wildlife and the environment.

"WWF has teams of experts working in over 100 countries to protect the natural resources that sustain and inspire us: our forests, rivers, ocean, climate, food and wildlife," said Colman O’Criodain, wildlife practice policy manager at WWF.

He said rising environmental pressure on the planet poses an "unprecedented global challenge” and to tackle the problem, the WWF works with governments, businesses, and local partners which would allow "opportunities for a future where people and nature thrive.”

"Strategically focusing efforts on these species [priority species, from big cats to great apes to vultures] can also help conserve the many other species that share their habitats and are vulnerable to the same threats while also protecting the ecosystems we all depend on," he said.

Touching on the WWF's strategy of tackling wildlife crimes, he stressed the importance of supporting governments and engaging in various international policy, as wildlife crime "undermines the rule of law, threatens peace and security, is facilitated by corruption, aggravated by human rights abuses and fueled by demand."

He said the existence of wildlife markets is a reason why illegal wildlife trade is still a growing problem.

"These markets not only pose a threat to biodiversity but also carry a greater risk of the spread of diseases being transmitted from wild mammals and birds to humans," he said.

Sustainable trade in wild

Established in 1976, TRAFFIC is a leading NGO working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

"We want to see a world where wildlife trade is sustainably managed, maintains healthy populations, contributes to development, and helps motivate commitments to conserve wild species and habitats," according to Richard Thomas, head of communications at the wildlife trade watchdog.

He said the trade in wild plant or animal species is not a threat to the conservation of nature and wildlife. On illegal trade, he stressed that "all forms of wildlife in trade are on our radar – not just animals, also plants, timber and fisheries, although there is a focus on large iconic mammal species, such as elephants and rhinos."

"Ultimately it is demand that fuels trade: if that demand is for illegal products, then it fuels illegal trade. The long-term goal to stemming such trade permanently is to shut down the demand," Thomas said.

To decrease demand, TRAFFIC has an active program encouraging consumers to change habits plus "demand reduction" strategies.

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