Nairobi, 20 June 2014: Vibrantly-coloured snakes, magnificent elephants, and iconic apes are among the fauna featured in the "Wild and Precious" International Airport Exhibition unveiled today in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Exhibition was originally conceived to mark the 40th anniversary of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and was launched at the 16th Conference of the Parties to CITES in Bangkok on 3 March 2013.
Following the Conference, UNEP signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Shanghai, China in support of wildlife demand reduction outreach. As a result of this agreement, Wild & Precious was then displayed in five central city metro stations. Soon after, the exhibition was also installed in Beijing Capital International Airport.
Today, thanks to the generosity of the Kenya Airports Authority, the Exhibition finds a home at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya on the occasion of the first United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA).
“Poaching and wildlife crime is at its highest rate in decades. We are thrilled to be able to provide Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as a special exhibition venue, especially during this historic event when Kenya, home of United Nations Environment Programme, will convene ministers from 193 UN member states as well as other stakeholder groups to provide leadership on global environmental policy.” Said Ms. Lucy Mbugua, Managing Director of Kenya Airports Authority.
Wild & Precious is the first-ever collaborative awareness initiative between UNEP, the GoodPlanet Foundation – a French NGO founded by photographer and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, Yann Arthus-Bertrand – and CITES. The Nairobi Exhibition also supports the work of the Kenya Wildlife Service, which stands at the front line of anti-poaching and illegal trafficking efforts in Kenya.
Seven of the world's most renowned nature photographers, including Laurent Baheux, Sandra Bartocha, Heidi and Hans-Jurgen Koch, Mark Laita, Brian Skerry and Yann Arthus-Bertrand, have taken part in the initiative.
“It is within our collective power to conserve our most precious species in the wild. Through the Wild and Precious exhibition, we are raising the awareness of consumers about the impacts their daily decisions can have on wildlife and on people”, said John Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General, adding: “through informed consumer choices we can have a huge impact on the survival of species in the wild and the livelihoods of rural communities”.
"Rising wildlife crime in Kenya and other parts of Africa is an issue of global concern, impacting many regions of the world. Profits from the high price of elephant ivory and rhino horn are being linked to criminal networks involved in the illegal drugs trade, illegal logging, and human trafficking according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
In May of last year, film actress and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Li Bingbing – one of China's most popular celebrities and a rising Hollywood star – visited Kenya to witness the impacts of the poaching crisis for herself and to urge greater effort by governments and consumers to combat illegal wildlife trade.
Ms. Li said citizens and the business community in Asia can play a crucial role in preventing the illegal killing of elephants in Africa by saying no to ivory products. The major recent spike in elephant killings – now at their highest levels in around a decade – is threatening the future of some elephant populations and the livelihoods of millions of people linked to tourism.
More recently, International football star Yaya Touré pledged to combat the illegal ivory trade that sees thousands of African elephants slaughtered each year as he was unveiled as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
"Côte d'Ivoire's national team is named 'The Elephants' after these magnificent creatures that are so full of power and grace, yet in my country alone there may be as few as 800 individuals left," Touré said. "Poaching threatens the very existence of the African elephant and if we do not act now we could be looking at a future in which this iconic species is wiped out."
"I became a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador to spread the message that this poaching and other forms of wildlife crime is not only a betrayal of our responsibility to safeguard threatened species, but a serious threat to the security, political stability, economy, natural resources and cultural heritage of many countries," Touré added.
The International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) – a group of five international organizations committed to fighting the illicit trade – is working to improve collaboration between customs, police forces and national governments to tackle this black market. UNEP supports this initiative.
“The illegal trade in wildlife and timber can only be eradicated if the demand for contraband products disappears. Messages by Goodwill Ambassadors like Yann Arthus-Bertrand, via Wild and Precious, Li Bingbing, Yaya Touré and newest UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, Ian Somerhalder, work to highlight the multiple costs of illegal trade and can reach millions of consumers, and encourage sustainable choices that can support the survival of species and ecosystems”, added Mr. Steiner.
Estimates of the global illicit trade in wildlife put it to be worth up to USD $20 billion per year, making it the fourth largest illegal trade in the world after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking.
Reptiles, sharks, great apes, and certain timber species are among the flora and fauna most affected by illegal trade.
The Elephants in the Dust report – produced by UNEP, CITES, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC) – says that an estimate of 25,000 African elephants were killed in 2011 and that the illegal ivory trade has tripled since 1998.
Research by UNEP and INTERPOL estimates that between 50 to 90 percent of logging in key tropical countries of the Amazon basin, Central Africa and South East Asia is being carried out by organized crime. This is threatening attempts to reduce deforestation as well as efforts to combat climate change under initiatives such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD or REDD+).
Globally, illegal logging now accounts for between 15 and 30 percent of the overall trade, and is estimated at between US $30 - $100 million annually
Between 30 and 40 percent of the export value of wood-based products from Southeast Asia is illegal (UNODC, 2013).
In Southeast Asia, it is estimated that approximately one-fourth of the total revenues from Transnational Organized Crime is generated by environmental crimes (UNODC, 2013).
The export value of wood-based products form Southeast Asia is the second biggest criminal flow originating in Southeast Asia (UNODC, 2013).
In East Asia and the Pacific, profits from illegal wildlife trade are conservatively estimated at US $2.5 billion annually. UNODC calculated in 2011 that the total value of the illegal global wildlife trade was between US $8 billion and $10 billion annually (excluding timber and marine wildlife).
A recent UNEP study showed that almost 3,000 live great apes are being taken from the forests of Africa and Southeast Asia each year. The main markets for the illegal trade in chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans include the tourist entertainment industry, disreputable zoos, and individuals who wish to buy great apes as exotic pets.
Criminal networks are responsible for the illegal trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia. Large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia have more than doubled since 2009 and reached an all-time high in 2011.
Addressing the Crisis
The international community is looking at measures to address the crisis, including collaborative action to combat the illegal trade in wildlife and timber, which would include:
• Improved law-enforcement across the entire illegal ivory supply chain;
• Strengthened national legislative frameworks;
• Training of enforcement officers in the use of tracking, intelligence networks and innovative techniques, such as forensic analysis;
• Better international collaboration across range states, transit countries and consumer markets;
• Action to fight collusive corruption, identifying syndicates and reducing demand.
Other actions include the establishment of Project Leaf (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests), a recent consortium of forests and climate initiatives that aims to combat illegal logging and organized forest crime, which is led by the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme and the UNEP's collaborative centre in Norway (GRID-Arendal), with support from the Government of Norway.
In addition, countries are currently considering launching new joint measures to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.