With the conservation of the environment including biodiversity getting the highest priority in the world because of a possible ecological catastrophe, Sri Lanka joins the international community in marking World Wildlife Day today on the theme “the future of wildlife is in our hands”.
The United Nations in a statement says World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to people. At the same time, the Day reminds us of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.
According to the UN, wildlife has an intrinsic value and contributes to the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of sustainable development and human well-being. Local communities can play a positive role in helping to curb illegal wildlife trade.
The 2016 theme is important for countries such as Sri Lanka because African and Asian elephants are the main focus of a global campaign. During the past decade especially, Sri Lanka has seen a vile increase in the so-called human-elephant conflict where a selfish, greedy and wicked people have grabbed the jungle homelands of the elephants.
When the displaced elephants come in search of food and water, they are damned as rogue elephants. Those who robbed their jungle land also need to be prosecuted under wildlife crime laws which we hope the government would implement. In addition, mainly during the former regime we saw the scandal of baby elephants being abducted and sold for more than Rs. One million to wealthy residents and to at least one temple. Reports show that in most instances the mother elephant is brutally killed to abduct the baby.
In an article published last month, the Daily Mirror quoted animal rights activists who expressed grave concern over the inhuman treatment of elephants for entertainment purposes. They say that without doubt this majestic creature adds glamour and beauty to any occasion, but there is a question if the elephant is being used more as an entertainment object to please, amuse the interested onlookers.
Of late, there is a trend of using elephants in school pageants to add more colour, but apart from entertainment, this implies a question if the animal is being tortured and harassed to provide entertainment only. We hope that in this month of big matches, there would be no elephants in the parades because schools are important institutions where children should be given a proper awareness of biodiversity and wildlife issues.
The UN says its theme reinforces the inextricable link between wildlife, people and sustainable development. It is the responsibility of each generation to safeguard wildlife for the next generation. The theme also imparts the pressing need for national action to ensure the survival in the wild of both charismatic and lesser known species.
The secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in collaboration with other UN organizations, facilitates the implementation of World Wildlife Day. With 182 Member States, CITES remains one of the world’s most powerful movements for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement to mark the event says global efforts to protect wildlife are gathering force. Last year, UN Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which include specific targets to end poaching. The General Assembly also unanimously agreed a resolution to limit illicit trafficking in wildlife. These powerful expressions of political determination to end these highly destructive crimes are now being translated into actions on the ground through collective efforts by countries around the world.