Mainstream, VOL LIV No 25 New Delhi June 11, 2016
World Environment Day — June 5, “Go Wild For Life”
Saturday 11 June 2016
by Mayanglambam Ojit Kumar Singh
On June 5 every year since 1974, people from across the globe have been celebrating the World Environment Day (WED) by taking part in environmental action and becoming agents of change for positive impacts on the planet. The UN General assembly in 1972 designated June 5 as the World Environment Day (WED) marking the first day of the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment. One of the very important resolutions adopted by the same assembly the same day led to the creation of the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme). The WED was celebrated for the first time in 1974 with the slogan of “Only One Earth”. Since then the relevance of this day and themes and slogans of the WED have been on the rise and are made practicable.
This day serves as the “people’s day” to do something so freely and independently as to take care of the Earth or become an agent of change. The theme for this year’s WED is on the illegal trade in wildlife under the slogan “Go Wild for Life”.The Global host country for the WED 2016 is Angola where the official celebrations are taking place. Angola is today seeking to restore its elephant herds and bring peace and prosperity where environment becomes a part of the heart and minds of the people integrated with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Raising the voice against illegal trade in wildlife and supporting and joining the global fight against the illegal trade in wildlife are intended for a secure and more tolerant future. Zero tolerance towards the illegal trading of wildlife is today very much required for ensuring a tolerant future.
Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Biodiversity
Biodiversity, which consists of the species, genetic and ecosystem diversities, is the source of foods, medicines, shelters and innumerable services, is getting eroded due to horribly illegal and criminal means of trading and commodification of the wildlife and their products. Every single species in every possible part of the world is a magic well and consists of products of natural selection and adaptation. If conserved and asked proper questions every species has answers and solutions for every query and problem for us. Biodiversity loss today, unlike the past mega extinctions of the so-called Big Five, is driven mainly by human activities.
Recorded data indicates that wildlife crime endangers iconic species such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, gorillas and sea turtles. Declaration of the extinction of a subspecies of Javan rhino from Vietnam and the vanishing of the last western black rhinos from Cameroon in 2011, disappearance of the great apes from Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo, and other countries are all due to the human activities of trading on these wild animals. Besides these, many lesser known species, which however play very important ecological roles (popularly known as keystone species), are also getting exterminated directly or indirectly due to wildlife crimes.
The current trend of the global illegal trade in wildlife for keeping them as pets is extremely unsustainable and is emptying our forests, rivers, skies, villages and mountains to supply a steady stream of romantic and exotic non-native pets to the ever hungry and not-well-aware global consumers. Can you believe that nearly 1.3 million African grey parrots were removed from the continent for the last 30 years for the international pet trade thus threatening the species today? Those places, where once the chirping birds enhanced the siginificance of those spots, are now filed with the dull silences. And the ways these species are brought from their native places to the adopted places and homes are beyond all descriptions of sorrows and pains such as drugging, chaining, starving, crowding and all possible means of tortures.
Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Economy
The illegal trade in wildlife is also causing alarming problems by undermining the economies and promoting organised crime. It is fuelling and feeding corruption and insecurity across the nations. By overexploiting the animals and plants in their natural habitats by means of overfishing, trapping and mutating the natural habitats, the wild lives being are rendered rarer and scarcer sending their commercial values uncontrollably soaring. Brain Horne of the Wildlife Conservation Society reports that certain species of Asian box turtle are now selling for as much as US $ 40,000 per hatchling. Such rampant activities cause loss and destruction of the habitats, loss of livelihood activities of the locals making them even poorer.
Desire for exotic animals, plants and their products are converting the poor residents and tribes in the wildlife habitats and biodiversity-rich countries into poachers armed by organised criminal syndicates. Many a time they outgun the security forces, loot villages and decimate animal populations. Their bloody haul is mostly transported by agents who bribe officials and undermine the security of national states.
The dimension of the illegal wild life trade is very deep and multi-faceted. And hence all possible means to control this crime is welcome. Stricter rules and regulations have to be formulated and implemented well. Understanding that environ-ment is important and at the same time it is fragile must be the guiding spirit of all the awareness programmes. Through the WED celebrations seas of people from different nations and groups have taken part in environmental action of great relevance. By grouping and channelising well the energy of each individual and nation, the WED really has the power to generate humongous positive impacts on the planet. Wildlife and their conservation must be treated as personal issues.
Burning of the 105 tonnes of ivory and 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn in Kenya last April was a timely and symbolic action to end the poaching crisis. Such actions shall signal to the buyer communities and the markets located near to and far from the associated criminal acts. Whoever we are and wherever we are let’s “Go Wild for Life” to inherit a safer and a more tolerable world. Let’s allow the wild life to move freely by enabling human transportation and our transports free of the products of wild-life. We must be serious about the wildlife trades and crimes associated with them.
Mayanglambam Ojit Kumar Singh is an Assistant Professor in Zoology, Ramjas College, University of Delhi. He is a Research Scholar of Human Ecology at Ambedkar University, Delhi. He can be contacted at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org