March 3rd was proclaimed as World Wildlife Day by the United Nations General Assembly three years ago to raise awareness of key issues facing our world’s free-roaming species and their habitat.
This year’s theme, “The future of wildlife is in our hands,” focuses on African and Asian elephants and the urgent threats facing them today, including human-wildlife conflict, habitat degradation resulting from agricultural expansion and infrastructure development, and poaching to supply the illegal ivory trade.
As travelers, there is a lot you can do to help. Here are five ways you can make a meaningful difference.
1. Help stop wildlife crime – don’t buy raw or carved ivory.
A study released in 2014 found that 100,000 African elephants were killed within three years alone, in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, the elephant population declined from 40,000 to 13,000. Poachers were responsible for many of the deaths. Fueling the poaching crisis has been the incredible demand for ivory by the affluent in Asia, many mistakenly believe that and elephants’ tusks grow back after being removed. The truth is that behind every piece of ivory is a dead elephant.
2. Take a picture or buy a postcard of a rhino but don’t buy rhino products.
All international trade is illegal. Despite a drop in rhino poaching numbers in South Africa in 2015, it still reached a record of 1,305 killed across Africa. Demand for rhino horn comes from Asia–especially Vietnam and China where it is perceived as a status symbol.
3. Get Involved
Sign WWF’s petition to stop Wildlife Crime. WWF is urging governments, particularly in China, Vietnam, Thailand and the U.S to strengthen law enforcement and demand reduction efforts. Check out these other ideas for how to get involved.
4. Protect tigers by switching to forest-friendly products.
Look for the FSC label when you shop, this label means the product is from a responsibly managed forest and was created by the Forest Stewardship Council ®. Currently, trees are being cut down at the equivalent of 48 football fields per minute in order to meet demand for certain products. The FSC label takes into account procedures that limit clear cuts, restricts the use of hazardous chemicals, and protects rivers from erosion, and protects the rights and resources of the 300 million people that live in forests and rely on this habitat for their livelihoods. Pledge here to buy forest-friendly products and then check out this interactive graphic to learn where you could be using FSC products at home, work and school.
5. Choose conservation travel.
Who you choose to travel with matters, be sure to ask how they have committed to protect the places they travel to and empower and improve local livelihoods. WWF has partnered with Natural Habitat Adventures because of their commitment to conservation and environmentally-friendly travel. Your trip with us is a powerful incentive for local communities to protect their natural resources, making wildlife worth more alive than dead, and wild lands worth more intact than degraded. Natural Habitat Adventures has provided more than $2 million in support to WWF and will continue to give 1% of gross sales plus $100,000 annually through 2018 in support of WWF’s mission.
To follow along and show your support on World Wildlife Day, use #InOurHands and #WWD2016. Be a part of the larger conversation and tell us in the comments below how the future of wildlife is in your hands.