Abuja - As the World celebrates Wildlife Day, the UN has drew attention to the impact of the 19 billion- Dollar illicit trade in flora and fauna across the globe.
The concern is contained in a statement issued by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi and made available to newsmen online in Abuja.
The statement said that illicit trade in wildlife included elephant poaching, great ape theft and the illegal transportation of timber.
It said that illegal trade in wildlife was considered the fourth largest in the world after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking.
The statement said that the trade had major implications on international peace and security and denied humanity of essential services.
It also said that wildlife was now trafficked internationally much like drugs or weapons, with criminals operating largely with impunity and little fear of prosecution.
According to the statement, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates illicit trade in wildlife at 19 billion Dollars.
The WWF also estimates that current trends of species extinction are between 100 times and 1,000 times higher than the naturally expected levels, the statement added.
It quotes John Scalon, the Secretary-General of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as saying: “wildlife is cherished in its own right.
“It is cherished for the contribution it makes to our personal well-being from food to medicine and from culture to recreation.
“Our wildlife is suffering from illegal trade. Let us do all we can, as citizens and consumers, to bring illegal wildlife trade to an end.
“ In doing so, we will secure the future for wild plants and animals as well as for ourselves.”
It noted that March 3 was also the day of adoption of CITES in 1973.
The statement further quoted Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, as saying that the UN’s first World Wildlife Day coincided with renewed attention to the escalating crisis of wildlife poaching.
“While providing us with an opportunity to celebrate the fantastic diversity of life on earth, it also reminds us of the urgency and responsibility to care for and protect it.
“While governments have a key role to play, we as citizens of countries across the globe, have a vital role to play in shutting down the markets that sustain this illegal trade.
“To shut down illegal trade which threatens the survival of iconic species, such as elephants and rhinos, but also of other threatened animal and plant species,’’ Steiner said.
It said that in its resolution designating World Wildlife Day, the General Assembly requested the CITES Secretariat to facilitate the implementation of the Day.
“The implementation would be done in collaboration with relevant organisations of the UN system,
“Among other things, the resolution recognised the intrinsic value of wildlife and its many contributions to human well-being and sustainable development.
“This also included ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational and cultural,’’ the statement said.
It added that wildlife crime continued to threaten the lives of rangers in their fight to stem the illegal tide.
“It is also often linked with the exploitation of disadvantaged communities, human right abuses and other challenges to inclusive, sustainable development, including by jeopardising livelihoods around the world.