Theme: Zero Tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade

By Dr. Jaya Krushna Panigrahi

On the eve of the 43rd World Environment Day, the governments, institutions, NGOs, civil societies and individuals of over 200 countries of the world are organizing diverse awareness and action programmes on the theme of the World Environment Day 2016.

The main function is organized by the UN in Angola, the country just liberated from a quarter-century of civil-war and has expressed its commitment to restore its elephant population, conserve its biodiversity-rich wildlife and safeguard its environment. The mankind has to realize at this juncture of time that the living world is now faced with multi-pronged environmental challenges with enhanced intensity and severity.

Problems such as pollution of air, water and soil; discharge of varied toxic chemicals into ecosystems and the consequent degradation in environmental quality; release of greenhouse gases into atmosphere and resulting global warming and climate change; ozone hole; acid rain; depletion of biodiversity; etc are threatening the continuance of not only the humanity, but also the whole living world.

Keeping these things in view, the Paris Agreement (COP21: Climate Change Conference from Nov 30 to Dec 12, 2015) makes the resolve to contain the global warming below 20C by reducing drastically the generation of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and making enhanced use of renewable sources of energy. This is considered as the most befitting step towards the protection of nature, human environment and the living world.

The Global Biodiversity Survey conducted by the UNEP in 1995 assessed that about 13.6 million species (best estimate) are existing on earth presently, which are providing various goods and services to the mankind. But to our utter dismay, the extinction rate of species has increased significantly due to various anthropogenic activities, being 20-75 species per day, which is 1,000-10,000 times more than the background rate. In the scenario of global warming and climate change gaining further momentum, the number of endangered species recorded in the Red Data Book of IUCN will enhance further, thus creating the possibility of converting the earth to a devastated, lifeless, dead planet devoid of living organisms.

Unsustainable development, population explosion, exploitation of resources beyond regeneration, human interference in natural ecosystems, man-animal conflicts, etc are the most important issues that threaten the survival of other species. We pay greater importance to instrumental values of species having anthropocentric benefits, rather than to intrinsic values that consider a species has value for its own sake just like human species.

It may appear philosophical, but we must have the mindset to accept that there is value in all living species and humans have no greater value than others. Killing of species faster than they can reproduce leads to their extinction. Furniture from tropical hardwoods, exotic pets, furs from wild animals, traditional medicines from animal parts & many luxuries such as ivory-handled knifes, reptile-skin shoes & handbags, baskets made from elephant & rhino feet, etc and over-exploitation of species for various other purposes are causing their depletion.

However, international agreements such as Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES, 1975) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992) are in force to combat the illegal trade or trafficking in wildlife & products derived from wild species. But, laws, acts, rules, regulations and guidelines will be translated into reality only when the human beings abandon the propensity of displaying their supremacy, reiterate their commitment to obey the laws of nature and learn to co-habit with all other species.

Let’s apply our wisdom, not only intelligence. The future generations should not be deprived of having the glimpses of tigers and elephants in the lap of Mother Nature.

(The writer is Secretary to Orissa Environmental Society and an eminent environmentalist)

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