Thursday, May 26, 2016

Superstars join UN in the fight to combat illegal wildlife trade

Yaya Touré (Photo:

By Isaiah Esipisu

The United Nations in with the backing of world renown celebrities including world class soccer star Yaya Touré, a Brazilian fashion model, actress, and producer Gisele Bündchen, South Korean statesman, a politician and the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, and an American actor, model and film director Ian Somerhalder have launched a campaign to tame illegal trade in wildlife.

During the launch on the sidelines of the second United Nations Environment Assembly in Kenyas, Ban Ki-moon called on Governments and people everywhere to support the new United Nations campaign known as ‘Wild for Life,’ which aims to mobilise the world to end this destructive trade.

“Each year, thousands of wild animals are illegally killed, often by organized criminal networks motivated by profit and greed,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Preserving wildlife is crucial for the well-being of people and planet alike.”

The campaign is run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and World Bank are also on board as supporters.

UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors are lending their weight to the cause. These include Gisele Bündchen, who is fighting for sea turtles, footballer Yaya Touré who is backing elephants, and actor Ian Somerhalder who is rooting for pangolins.

They are being joined by major celebrities from China, India, Indonesia, Lebanon and Viet Nam battling to conserve species such as orangutans, tigers, rhinos and helmeted hornbills and calling for citizen support to end the demand that is driving the illegal trade.

“It saddens me that in the 21st century, with all our knowledge and power, we are still hearing stories of wildlife facing the possibility of extinction at the hands of man,” said Gisele Bündchen.  “It is clear to me that a radical global shift needs to occur and it will take everyone accepting the challenge to support the UNEP Wild for Life campaign.

“Knowledge is power and now is the time to set our minds to ending all illegal wildlife trade before the choice is no longer in our hands. Today, I am giving my name to change the game for sea turtles.”

Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in Africa. Three rhinos are killed every day, and the Western Black Rhino has already gone extinct. Pangolins – scaly anteaters – are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. Great apes are already locally extinct in several African nations.

The campaign asks participants to find their kindred species and use their own spheres of influence to end the illegal trade, however it touches or impacts them.  

Profits from the illegal wildlife trade sometimes go into the pockets of international criminal networks, threatening peace and security, and damaging the livelihoods of local communities who depend on tourism.  

Stopping this trade is also crucial to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as it threatens countries’ biodiversity and people’s livelihoods, and disturbs peace. SDG 15 in particular calls for the protection of wild fauna and flora as well as the ecosystems that they depend on – including targets on combatting and addressing the supply and demand of illegal wildlife products.

Politicians, celebrities and business leaders will be making pledges during UNEA-2 and in the run-up to World Environment Day (WED), which is themed “Go Wild For Life” to tie in with the campaign. Angola, the global host of WED, will be making significant pledges to tackle the illegal ivory trade at the event.

Steppenwolf’s lead singer, John Kay, donated the use of Born to Be Wild – one of the top three international music licenses of all time for Universal Music – to the campaign.

Join the campaign by visiting and using the #Wildforlife hashtag on Twitter to share your kindred animal and pledge.

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