The illegal trade in wildlife threatens some of the planet’s most iconic species – including the African elephant, black and white rhinos, and pangolins – and affects millions of livelihoods around the world that depend on healthy, balanced ecosystems.
This year, the UN has given World Wildlife Day the theme “Listen to the Young Voices”. Given that almost one quarter of the world’s population is aged between 10 and 24, vigorous efforts need to be made to encourage young people, as the future leaders and decision makers of the world, to act at both local and global levels to protect endangered wildlife.
World Wildlife Day 2017, facilitated by the CITES Secretariat, encourages youth around the world to rally together to address ongoing major threats to wildlife including habitat change, over-exploitation or illicit trafficking.
On this occasion, GEF partner the World Bank blogs about the importance of involving young people in protecting wildlife. Under the headline, “The World’s wildlife needs young naturalists”, they note that conservation outcomes take a long time to come to fruition. Young people today will be decision makers tomorrow.
A global program to combat wildlife crime
To respond to the growing crisis and international call for action, in 2015 the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank launched the Global Wildlife Program (GWP). The GWP is a $131 million program that deploys resources along the entire illegal wildlife trade supply chain in 19 countries in Africa and Asia. It aims to reduce poaching through the engagement of local communities and by conserving and protecting wildlife natural habitats; control wildlife crime and reducing trafficking through effective law enforcement; and reduce demand for illegal wildlife by raising awareness and changing behavior.
The GWP complements numerous other wildlife initiatives
While the GWP is the largest single investment to tackle the current wildlife crisis, it complements investments by other international donors, and was launched in response to numerous declarations and pledges made over the past few years.
In 2016, UN Environment launched the Wild for Life campaign, urging politicians, celebrities and business leaders to help bring global attention to the fight against illegal wildlife trade. The campaign asks participants to find their kindred species and use their own spheres of influence to end illegal trade, in support of two Sustainable Development Goals: SDG14, calling for an end to illegal and unreported fishing, and destructive fishing practices, and SDG15 calling for the sustainable management of land, forests and ecosystems to halt biodiversity loss among other environmental threats.
On the ground in Mozambique
Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique was once a safari destination of choice for celebrities from around the world. During a decades-long civil war, Gorongosa’s wildlife was all but exterminated.
In 2008 the GEF joined in supporting the revitalization of Gorongosa by funding a project implemented by UNDP: Sustainable Financing of the Protected Area System in Mozambique. The project aimed to strengthen the overall effectiveness and sustainability of Mozambique’s protected area system through working partnerships between public, private, NGO and community stakeholders. The project also supported conservation and promoted development in surrounding areas such as a reforestation and shade coffee program, which brought tangible benefits to communities around the park.
Under the GWP, a new project in Mozambique will support a significant expansion of Gorongosa National Park as well as the development of a training center for park rangers from across the country to acquire the skills they need to fight poaching and manage natural resources.