Conservative estimates suggest that more than a million animal species are in danger of extinction, and nearly two trillion are affected by human activity each year.
This World Nature DayUnder the theme ‘Restoring Important Species for Ecosystem Restoration’, the spotlight is focused on the declining conservation status of some of the most at-risk fauna and flora.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red List data, more than 8,400 species of wild fauna and flora are critically endangered, of which nearly 30,000 are considered endangered or vulnerable.
Conservation efforts cannot be successful without addressing a number of sustainable development goals, such as poverty, hunger, climate action and sustainable consumption.
But unless attitudes and policies are urgently changed, experts fear the worst for the world’s wildlife and for those who depend on nature as an integral source of life and economic opportunity.
Are we too far gone?
World animal protection (WAP) wildlife campaign manager Edith Kabesiime and Africa research manager Dr. Patrick Muinde doesn’t seem to think that way yet.
However, for humanity to turn back the clock, the world must stop trading wildlife.
Kabesiime said the most effective way to make people realize how dangerous it is for humans to participate in the wildlife trade is to change people’s mindsets.
“One of the strategies we have is to change the mindset that wild animals belong in the wild,” she emphasized.
“We need to go back to basics, we need to reset the clock and take the commercialization of wildlife out of the equation. Wild animals used to live in harmony. We need to find that balance so that species can take their place.”
Biodiversity not a magic bullet
Kabesiime pointed out that many cultural practices used wild animals, but not all of them were correct.
They can be beneficial or harmful, but once large areas of wildlife are lost in the name of tradition, something has to change, she explained.
The main culprit of species extinction is the commercialization and encroachment on wildlife.
Part of this commercialization is avoiding using biodiversity as a “magic bullet to lift Africans out of poverty”. South Africa is a key player in this argument, with its latest trophy hunting quota recently announced.
“Trophy hunting is not good. It’s not a solution. It is sustainable to use wildlife in natural habitats through tourism, where they are left alone.”
But there’s little incentive to stop chasing trophies as some previously struggling populations are increasing, no matter how slightly.
Kabesiime argued that the practice of hunting wild animals in South Africa for profit, although regulated, was unnecessary. Instead, for example, species that were previously extinct in Africa could be repopulated.
“It is high time African governments got together and thought about our continent and our wildlife being exploited and put into captivity.”
Muinde said conservation efforts will not bear fruit if the wildlife trade continues.
“Wildlife should not be seen as a commodity that generates money.
“We need to move to a protective stance, respect them as sentient beings and let them live in the wild to help preserve the ecosystem.”