Wednesday 11 May 2016

Illegal wildlife trade campaign enlists tourists

By Mark Kinver
Environment reporter, BBC News
8 May 2016

Conservationists have launched a global campaign asking the public to help tackle the illegal trade in wildlife.

They have developed a smartphone app that allows people to submit images and data of suspicious items on sale, possibly helping enforcement agencies.

The United Nations estimates the illegal trade is worth billions of pounds each year.

Despite efforts to crack down on the slaughter, it continues to grow, say campaigners.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in the poaching of threatened species, raising concern about the long-term survival of iconic animals such as tigers and rhinos.

Growing demand for protected animal body parts and products on the Chinese black market is widely viewed as one of the main drivers for the growth in the trade.

A recent report by UK think-tank Chatham House said demand was rising at an "alarming rate".

The authors said that activity in the illegal ivory trade had more than doubled since 2007, with ivory reaching a price of US $2,205 (£1,526) per kg in Beijing.

Rhino horn was reaching mind-blowing prices of US $66,000 per kg - more than the price of gold or platinum.

Crime prevention agencies recognise the threat posed by criminals targeting wildlife - listing the global trade alongside drugs, arms and human trafficking.

The app - Wildlife Witness - was developed by Taronga Conservation Society Australia in partnership with Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Its focus was the South East Asia region, which has been identified has a hub in the global illegal wildlife trade.

In this expansion of the scheme, Chester Zoo will look to raise awareness of the project across Europe while San Diego Zoo will do the same in the US.

"The reason why it is important for zoos to get involved is because we have access to really large audiences, and zoos have an important role to try and get these messages out," said Scott Wilson, head of field programmes at Chester Zoo.

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