Washington D.C., February 21, 2014 -- The United Nations is highlighting the intrinsic values and contributions of wild animals and plants, particularly endangered and protected species, by declaring March 3, 2014 as World Wildlife Day. Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, will use this platform to increase awareness about the deleterious wildlife trade.
According to Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, “The global wildlife trade is among the most profitable illicit enterprises along with drug and gun running. Trafficking rare and exotic wildlife -- live birds, reptiles, elephant ivory, rhino horn, lion trophies and other species’ parts and products made from them -- is an international business, worth $10 to $20 billion annually. It is a wildly destructive and cruel enterprise that must be controlled.”
Born Free USA reports that over the past 30 years, lion populations have been cut in half to approximately 35,000; tigers, numbering 100,000 in 1900, are now fewer than 4,000; and elephants, decimated across Africa in the 1970s and 1980s for their ivory, are facing a poaching crisis once again.
Born Free USA has worked to stop the abhorrent practice of trophy and sport hunting of lions, rhinos, and elephants around the world. Roberts explains. “As the illicit wildlife trade grows, we are fighting harder than ever against the poaching and killing of elephants and rhinos for their ivory and horns in Africa; the hunting of bears for their gallbladders here in America; and the destructive practice of shark-fining happening in oceans around the world.”
The UN Assembly selected March 3 to coincide with the signing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Washington, DC on March 3, 1973. The international agreement between governments of 179 Member States aims to ensure that global trade in close to 35,000 species of plants and animals does not threaten their survival. Born Free USA focuses on CITES issues and has been a respected vocal and active participant at its meetings.
“With World Wildlife Day falling on the anniversary of CITES, it brings an even stronger opportunity for the global conservation community and governments everywhere to speak with a unified voice and declare that there is no excuse for the indiscriminate killing, selling or captivity of wildlife and that it will not be tolerated,” Roberts says.
- The U.S. is the world’s largest importer of African lion trophies and parts, one of the main reasons why fewer than 40,000 lions remain in the wild. Between 1999 and 2008, 7,090 lion specimens, reported as being from a wild source, were traded internationally for recreational trophy hunting purposes, representing a minimum of 5,663 lions.
- A tiger in the U.S. can be purchased online or in person for as little as $300 -- less than the cost of a purebred dog. There are more tigers kept as “pets” in the U.S. (between 5,000 and 7,000) than there are in the wild, where fewer than 4,000 remain.
- By the beginning of 2014, only 5,000 black rhinos are left in the wild. Over 1,000 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone in 2013.
- Five states still allow bears to be killed solely for their gallbladders to create traditional Asian medicines and toiletries like shampoos and hemorrhoid creams. On the black market, bear gallbladder and bile can fetch prices higher by weight than gold or cocaine. In one instance, a bear gallbladder sold for $10,000 in South Korea.
- At least 73 million sharks -- many of which are endangered - - are killed worldwide to supply a demand for shark fin soup.
- Over 40% of the 234 primate species are now threatened with extinction.
- An estimated 13 million reptiles are kept as pets in the U.S. Most were captured in the wild or are the offspring of wild-caught parents. Tens of thousands of Burmese pythons - - formerly kept as pets - - have been let loose in the Florida swamps.
- More than 60% of the recorded primate incidents in the U.S. (bites or worse injuries to humans) in the past 10 years involved “pet" primates. More than 90 children and adults were injured in incidents occurring in 49 different states.
Born Free USA is a recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org; www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and facebook.com/bornfreeusa.