The theme for World Environment Day 2016 is “stop the illegal trade in wildlife”, not just animals but plant life too, as every stolen item erodes our biodiversity. The term “illegal wildlife trade” conjures up images of ivory taken from an elephant and sold on the black market, shipments of pangolins or orangutans and the harvesting of precious timber and rare plant species. Some would imagine that it takes teams of detectives and armed rangers to stop such activities but what if there was another way?
While the trafficking of wildlife is organised by criminal syndicates, the locating of and capturing of the wildlife requires locals who know where to find the animals and plants in demand. The syndicates target the poor who are willing to break the law for a small fee as there are few other sources of income available in a poverty stricken community.
What if local communities had another option of securing an income that meant protecting the wildlife rather than destroying and selling it?
That is exactly what Carbon Tanzania is doing, offering an alternative source of income through the sale of forest carbon offsets. Securing and maintaining this revenue source depends on the continued protection of both wildlife and its habitat. If we can give wildlife and the intact ecosystem a greater value than when destroyed and sold in pieces then we have good chances of helping to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.
The 5th June provides us with an opportunity to stop and think about ways that we can protect our wildlife. Some may choose to join an advocacy group, donate to a wildlife charity, raise awareness amongst peers or even conceive the next innovative approach to protecting our wildlife and landscapes.