A senior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official said illegal wildlife trade resulted in the slaughter of more than 1,200 rhinos in 2014 and approximately 30,000 elephants annually, but wildlife-conscious consumers and organizations willing to engage lawmakers and educate others can help end or at least abate the crisis.
“Wildlife is an easy take. No one pays attention until there’s a crisis,” said Bryan Arroyo, Assistant Director for International Affairs at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. During a live-streamed presentation hosted by environmental consulting firm Marstel-Day, LLC, Arroyo said the public can make a difference: “Share the importance of wildlife. Be involved. Spread the word. Ask questions.”
Arroyo’s Jan. 27 talk launched the wildlife conservation awareness campaign of the Virginia-based Marstel-Day, which is sponsoring monthly presentations by leading conservationists.
With criminal rings moving from human, drug, and weapons trafficking into illegal wildlife trade, greater efforts must focus on dismantling these lawless networks, beefing up penalties, and better equipping the rangers who are dying as they try to protect animals, Arroyo said. He said equally important is the need to reduce demand for products, such as shark-fin soup, or art made of elephant tusks or rhino horns.
But individuals and organizations can actively help combat wildlife trafficking, Arroyo said. Educate others about the importance of wildlife. Buy the Tiger postage stamp (http://tigerstamp.com) to provide funds for wildlife conservation. Spread the word through social media. Be a wildlife conscious consumer and tourist.
Marstel-Day CEO Rebecca R. Rubin hailed Arroyo’s presentation as “poignant and eye-opening.” She added: “Conservation is at the core of Marstel-Day. That these magnificent animals are being butchered and their populations reduced to the point of dissipation makes us even more determined to do our part to try to preserve them.”
Following Arroyo’s talk, Rubin announced that Marstel-Day has signed the WildAid pledge to “never knowingly purchase or consume products made from endangered species.”
In addition, Rubin said Marstel-Day has adopted a wild, baby African elephant to directly support efforts to protect wildlife. Named “Lentili,” the 3-year-old elephant was rescued by the Kenya-based David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which saves and rehabilitates orphaned elephants until they are ready for release into a safe refuge.
As part of the Marstel-Day wildlife awareness campaign, the company will host a talk by biologist Dr. Mamie Parker Feb. 24 about the growing role of urban wildlife refuges in building diverse conservation partnerships and re-introducing children and adults to nature. The public is invited to register to attend the Parker presentation as well as subsequent March 19 and April 15 talks. Visit the Campaign’s website at https://www.marstel-day.com/wildlife-conservation-awareness-campaign/ for more information and presentation archives.
The illegal wildlife trade, which WildAid estimates to be worth more than $10 billion annually, has sharply reduced many wildlife populations.
But Arroyo said President Obama’s 2013 Executive Order directing relevant federal agencies to contribute to combating wildlife trafficking has made a substantial difference, resulting in cooperation and commitments of resources and talent.
Abroad, different countries have varying priorities. Russia vigorously protects tigers; meanwhile, China is taking action on behalf of freshwater turtles and sharks. Illegal wildlife trade is a global problem for which countries must work together to find global solutions.
Arroyo coordinates the Fish and Wildlife Service’s domestic and international strategies to protect, restore and enhance the world’s wildlife and their habitats with a focus on species of international concern.