"After 20 years of working on this issue, I've never been more positive about the impact that we're having."
FIGHTING WILDLIFE TRAFFICKINGWritten by Elissa Poma, Deputy Director of Marketing & Communication, WWF-US
WWF Senior Director Crawford Allan leads wildlife crime prevention efforts as a key member of TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade network. Allan sat down with Elissa Poma, deputy director of WWF-US’ marketing & communication, to discuss the continued impact of wildlife crime on people and natural resources around the world, and how WWF is fighting back.
Q: What is the impact of wildlife trafficking on people?
A: Wildlife trafficking has a major impact on people – one being that it affects national security. The trafficking of things like elephant ivory in Africa is funding groups linked to terror. Wildlife trafficking also undermines society and its sustainability, incomes, revenues and livelihoods for people in some of the poorest countries, as their natural resources are stolen from them and their youth lose direction and turn to crimes such as poaching.
Q: What is causing the recent surge in wildlife crime?
A: It’s driven ultimately by greed – the greed of profiteering criminal syndicates. They are pandering to newfound wealth and new fashions – this strange, mythical belief that certain animal products like rhino horn will cure disease or help you succeed socially by buying people an item of social standing, like ivory, as a gift. It’s great that there’s economic development and increased wealth in countries like China, but unfortunately some of the purchasing decisions being made by those people are misguided.
Q: How is WWF tackling the issue?
A: WWF’s wildlife trafficking campaign called Stop Wildlife Crime has achieved some major results, especially in making governments realize that wildlife crime is a serious threat – not just to wildlife, but also to people and national security. We even have the backing of President Obama himself, who’s instigated a new strategy and an executive order to tackle this issue. This is having ripple effects across the globe.
Q: How do you alter people’s impressions of items made from wildlife?
A: We’re trying to change behavior and attitudes. A rhino horn doesn’t just drop off the nose of a rhino like an antler. You actually have to kill the rhino to get that horn. A lot people in Asia don’t realize that. So, we’re trying to help bring about a greater awareness and understanding and find alternatives.
Q: Are you seeing positive changes?
A: I’ve seen doors open, money flow, changes happen. We now have access to the highest levels of many governments. People understand what we’re doing. People want to work with us. I’ve never seen so many new partners from so many different sectors. It’s exciting, and we are making the most of it. Many positive initiatives and results are starting to turn the tide on wildlife crime.