World Environment Day celebrations focus on wildlife protection
June 5th marked the celebration of World Environment Day (WED). Under the theme of “Go Wild for Life”, this year’s celebration focused on the fight against illegal wildlife trade and the protection of shared environmental resources from wildlife crime and other environmental threats. Governments, international organizations, and representatives of civil society held events all around the world to raise awareness about the threats to wildlife life and the importance of environmental conservation. Roundtable discussions also brought experts together with officials from governments and United Nations agencies to work on strategies to curb wildlife crime.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) participated in the celebrations in Angola, host country of the 2016 WED. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner cut the ribbon at a new school for wildlife rangers – that will train former combatants in the country’s civil war – set to educate a new generation of “soldiers of nature” to dedicate their lives to the protection of wildlife resources.
At the event, John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES called the attention to the fact that illicit wildlife trafficking is driving “some of the world’s most iconic animals and plants towards extinction”, and threatening personal and collective well-being, national economies and security. He also acknowledged the efforts of the international community to address these serious threats and the decisive actions of governments, organizations and citizens to tackle both demand and supply.
UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi (Kenya) also celebrated World Environment Day in an event led by Ibrahim Thaw, Deputy Executive Director, that served to reinforce not only the need for decisive action at the global level, but also the need “to take personal action to take care of our own backyard”, in order to create the change that is needed to address environmental threat. In this context, UNEP and INTERPOL also presented a new report “The Rise of Environmental Crime” highlighting how eco-crime has reached a record high at up to $258 billion, outstripping other illegal traffics and allowing armed groups and rebels to profit from wildlife to fuel conflict, devastate ecosystems and take species to extinction. A new global campaign “Wild for Life” was also launched by UNEP, CITES, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to continue raising awareness to recognize wildlife crimea as a serious crime and a threat to sustainable development.
World Environment Day was hosted by the Government of Angola, that joined CITES in 2013 as its 179th Party. The country is currently putting in place strong measures to combat wildlife crime, preserve biodiversity and attract international tourists to help diversify the country’s economy. Angola is both a source and transit country for ivory, with carved ivory coming over the borders from the Democratic Republic of Congo and being sold on, largely to Asian nations.
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