The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific today marked International Tiger Day with a call for urgent action to protect tigers and combat illegal trade in wildlife.
With only a few thousand of the species remaining in the wild, mainly in Asia, the UN is reiterating its call for zero tolerance for wildlife crime as part of its 2016 Wild for Life campaign, which aims to mobilize millions of people around the world to take personal action to end the illegal trade in wildlife.
“Today, as we mark the International Tiger Day, the United Nations is calling on everyone to stop wildlife trafficking, through the Wild for Life campaign,” said Isabelle Louis, Acting Regional Director and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
“Everyone has a role to play in stopping the shameful illegal trade in wildlife, be they police, customs officials, lawmakers, community leaders, prosecutors, judges, businesses or citizens. Decisive action against the illegal trade in wildlife is needed to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” she added.
Observed annually on 29 July, International Tiger Day – also known as Global Tiger Day – seeks to promote the protection and expansion of wild tiger habitats and to gain support through awareness for tiger conservation. Some 97 per cent of all wild tigers have been lost in just over 100 years. As few as 3,000 tigers live in the wild today, and a number of tiger species have already become extinct.
The biggest threat to the tiger is illegal trade, with the animal's body parts sought for trophies and medicinal purposes. Their shrinking habitat, human-wildlife conflict and climate change are also growing threats.
The threat posed by illegal trade was highlighted by the discovery of 70 dead tiger cubs, tiger skins, talismans and other wildlife parts in a Buddhist temple in Thailand in June. Wildlife crime undermines national development by diverting billions of dollars of resources to organized international crime cartels, UNEP stressed.
Addressing the trade will require coordinated action, working across source, transit and destination countries, in the most strategic hotspots across the supply chain, the agency said. It added that greater public awareness is essential for bringing pressure on governments to enforce laws and reduce the demand for illegally traded wildlife and wildlife products.
“The commendable action by authorities in Thailand that led to the discovery of the dead tiger cubs showed the need for constant vigilance by wildlife law enforcement authorities to the threat posed by traffickers,” UNEP said.
Launched at the second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi in May, the Wild for Life campaign is run by 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).