By the time today’s children are 30, there won't be no more elephants, rhinos, tigers or lions roaming in the wild, warns wildlife and conservation charity, Care for the Wild. They will all have been hunted down by poachers to fuel illegal ivory trade – a direct result of growing poverty, ethnic rivalry, terrorism and civil war.
Last year, an estimated 40,000 elephants were killed in Africa while the number of rhinos killed so far this year - around 700 - has already surpassed last year’s total.
Care for the Wild estimates that if poaching continues at its current rate and wildlife’ birth rates remain as predicted, some of the world’s most iconic animals - elephants, rhinos, lions and tigers - will no longer exist in their natural habitat as early as 2035.
“Drawing on our own on-the-ground experience and having studied reports from conservation experts around the world, we’ve concluded that at today’s best estimates, these four children’s picture book favourites – among many others – will all be extinct in the wild by around 2035. That’s just 22 years. It’s devastating to think that by the time our children are in their thirties, they will have to turn to the television or internet to observe these animals in their natural habitat,” explained Philip Mansbridge, CEO of Care for the Wild.
At a recent illegal wildlife trade event in New York, Foreign Secretary William Hague attributed the problem to terrorism and widespread instability. Care for the Wild agrees, warning that wildlife poaching in Africa, and in particular the poaching of elephants and rhinos to fuel the illegal ivory trade, is intrinsically linked to growing poverty, ethnic rivalry, terrorism and civil war in affected countries.
It is estimated that Al Shabaab - the group linked to the attack on civilians in Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi - funds 40% of activities through elephant poaching and ivory trade, while recent reports claimed that ‘warlord’ Joseph Kony had ordered the killing of elephants to fund his rebel army, the Lord's Resistance Army.
As the demand for ivory surges in the growing economies of China, Vietnam and across Asia, the prices it commands has reached an all time high. With a 10kg tusk worth almost £10,000, the profitability of such a lucrative trade is attracting some high profile terrorist groups in need of funds. These groups kill the wild animals using cyanide and military grade weaponry.
Earlier this year, the United Nations recognised wildlife crime as ‘serious transnational organised crime’, in the same bracket as the drugs trade and gun smuggling, while the UNESCO General Secretariat stated: “Given the current rate of poaching, children from West or Central Africa will one day speak of elephants and rhinoceros as we speak of mammoths: as magnificent creatures belonging to the past.”
Care for the Wild has launched its Tooth Fairy campaign to raise awareness and funds for its anti-poaching work in Africa. The campaign encourages children to become a Tooth Fairy Hero by pledging the money they would have received for wobbly teeth to the charity and learning about the threatened animals.