The ex­tra­or­di­nary gift of wildlife is a bless­ing to us all

▶ As many species face ex­tinc­tion, each of us has a part to play in pro­tect­ing their fu­ture

The National - News - - OPINION -

As we have wo­ken up to the part we all play in cli­mate change, so it is now time to ac­knowl­edge the threat hu­man be­ings are pos­ing to the thou­sands of species tee­ter­ing on the brink of ex­tinc­tion. On Mon­day, the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture pub­lishes its lat­est Red List, the de­fin­i­tive barom­e­ter of the health of the planet’s bio­di­ver­sity. The news is un­likely to be good. Work­ing with ex­perts and or­gan­i­sa­tions around the world, in­clud­ing the En­vi­ron­ment Agency Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s Min­istry of Cli­mate Change and En­vi­ron­ment, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has so far as­sessed 95,000 key species. Of these, 26,000 are in peril. Poach­ing is the most vis­i­ble threat.

As the UK hosted last week’s Il­le­gal Wildlife Trade con­fer­ence, Do­minic Jer­mey, head of the Zoo­log­i­cal So­ci­ety of Lon­don and a for­mer Bri­tish am­bas­sador to the UAE, urged the global com­mu­nity to ad­dress this “in­dus­trial-scale pil­lage”. A start has been made. Thirty global fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions have joined a task­force to choke the move­ment of money by il­le­gal traders. In­ter­cept­ing the pro­ceeds of this grotesque trade is one thing, but de­stroy­ing its mar­ket must be the ul­ti­mate goal. Ed­u­ca­tion and leg­is­la­tion have made in­roads – rare now is the home with a tiger-skin rug, and com­pa­nies such as Emi­rates Air­line have done their bit to raise aware­ness with high-pro­file cam­paigns – but a black mar­ket con­tin­ues to thrive. In July al­most 2,000 pieces of ele­phant ivory, en route to Asia, were seized at Dubai air­port. In China, the govern­ment may have banned the ivory trade but tra­di­tional medicine re­lies on the body parts of more than 30 species. In Viet­nam, a myth that rhino horn cures can­cer re­cently un­leashed a frenzy of poach­ing in South Africa.

But none of us can af­ford to be smug. Eco­nomic suc­cess and hu­man de­vel­op­ment pose their own threats. The IUCN Red List in­cludes more than 400 species fac­ing ex­tinc­tion in the GCC, with 60 listed for the UAE alone. Ex­tinc­tion is ex­tinc­tion, whether trig­gered by a poacher’s ri­fle or a loss of habi­tat. As the bless­ing of wildlife ben­e­fits each one of us, so the dis­ap­pear­ance of a sin­gle species from the face of the earth di­min­ishes us all.

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