“Get Wild” - an exhibition highlighting the issue of the illegal trade in endangered species has been opened at Prague Airport

“Get Wild” - an exhibition highlighting the issue of the illegal trade in endangered species has been opened at Prague Airport

An interactive exhibition supporting the "Wild for Life" campaign has been launched today at Václav Havel International Airport in Prague presenting celebrities from around the world, who are calling for the end of the illegal trade in endangered species. The main message of the campaign is not to buy traditional Chinese medicine products and goods that may be made from body parts of endangered animals. Thanks to this campaign each of us can virtually become an endangered species for a while thus helping to spread information and raise awareness.

Every year an average of 30,000 elephants are killed worldwide, meaning their numbers are steadily dropping by 8 percent a year. In the period between 2007 and 2014 the rate of decline recorded an increase particularly due to a rise in poaching [1]. Every day, three rhinos are killed by poachers. The smallest of the eight bear species, the Sun Bear is hunted mainly for its gallbladder, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine, and for its paws which are considered a delicacy. In China and Vietnam, bile is extracted from live bears causing them extreme suffering. Between 2005 - 2015 around 1 million pangolins were killed. These animals are currently regarded as the mammals mostly endangered by the illegal trade, which is behind these alarming numbers. The price of ivory has risen over the past 25 years from USD 100 to the current USD 2,200 per kilogram owing to the growing demand for ivory especially in China and Hong Kong. Rare species are dying out today due to people’s desire for trendy trinkets, luxury delicacies and trophies, as well as traditional Asian medicine.

Along with the over-exploitation of resources, climate change and the loss of habitat of many species, this devastation has caused an unprecedented decline in the precious biodiversity on Earth. Through its Environment Programme – UNEP, the UN responded last year by launching a worldwide campaign against the illegal trade in wildlife, which has brought several small and large species protected worldwide by the CITES Convention [2] to the brink of extinction. The WILD FOR LIFE (https://wildfor.life/) campaign aims to involve individuals, businesses and governments in the process of raising awareness, commitment and utilization of contacts that will jointly contribute to curbing the illegal trade. It was supported by world celebrities such as supermodel Gisele Bündchen, actor Adrian Grenier, soccer star Neymar Jr. and Jane Goodall, the famous British biologist studying primates.

The campaign has already addressed over a billion people worldwide and has become the UN Environment’s most successful digital campaign ever. Thanks to it the countries such as China, Vietnam and Angola entered into commitments aimed at strengthening the protection of CITES species. For example, China announced a total ban on ivory sales for the end of this year. In all countries, the campaign targets social networks and uses the possibility of the general public identifying themselves with the endangered species by means of a special photo-application. Anyone can participate in it via https://wildfor.life/, where with a short quiz you will be identified with the image of your kindred endangered animal or plant (tiger, rhinoceros, orang-utan, rosewood, etc.). The photo of the animal and the individual are joined together and the person becomes the virtual face of the endangered species. Then you can share your photo on Facebook, Instagram and other social networks.

The Wild for Life campaign is also accompanied by the travelling exhibition launched today and installed mainly at international airports. It has been staged in Nairobi, Kenya as well as in Beijing and Shanghai, China. Now, thanks to the support of the Ministry of the Environment, Prague Airport a.s. and Dvůr Králové Zoo, it is to stay for six months at Václav Havel Airport in Prague.

On the occasion of the opening of the exhibition in Prague, Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, the Deputy Executive Director for UNEP stated: "It can be said that there has already been a significant political shift towards combating the illegal trade in wildlife, but we are still far from certain that the endangered rare species will survive. The key to our success lies in ensuring people are informed and aware of the fact that it is high time they changed their existing behaviour. International airports are an ideal place for spreading the Wild for Life campaign message to the greatest number of people possible, so we are in Prague now and we wish to thank our partners in the Czech Republic for their crucial support."

Unfortunately, the Czech Republic was identified as being one of the significant transit countries involved in rhino horn and ivory trafficking to Asian markets. The violation of the Act on the Protection of Species of Wild Fauna and Flora can carry a sentence of up to eight years imprisonment, while for minor offences the CEI can impose fines of up to 1.5 million crowns. In recent years the Czech Republic has recorded several cases of the illegal trade in rhino horns of a size bordering on organized crime. The CITES inspection authorities, i.e. CEI and Customs Administration of the CR, have discovered that there have been a number of attempts or proven misuse of rhino hunting trophies imported from South Africa for commercial purposes.

"In the Czech Republic we try to ensure that the smuggling of products from endangered species is perceived and punished by courts as a serious crime, the same as bribery, money laundering as well as weapon and drug trafficking. I hope that the exhibition installed between Terminals 1 and 2 at Ruzyně airport and the Facebook campaign of the Ministry of the Environment will get more people involved in the Wild for Life campaign and will contribute to changing their attitude towards this issue that concerns us all," said Vladislav Smrž, Deputy Minister for the Environment.

The Czech Miss Earth 2013, Monika Leová, one of the faces of the campaign and collaborator of Dvůr Králové Zoo in the fight against the illegal trade in rhino horns added: "The current increase in demand for rhino horns could lead to the complete extinction of rhinos. I have seen for myself that some people around me still erroneously believe in the medicinal powers of rhino horns. Thanks to my cooperation with Dvůr Králové Zoo I know how devastating the consequences of this misguided belief can be for rhinos. Therefore, I try to highlight the plight of rhinos and help convince potential consumers that any use of rhino horns is completely unacceptable."

For this reason in November 2015, the Czech Republic signed the first ever international declaration on cooperation concerning trade in endangered species with Vietnam. New Czech-Vietnamese activities include discovering the current awareness of the large Vietnamese community about the illegal trade in rhino horns and the related risks. The signed declaration contributes to a systematic, intensive and substantive exchange of information relating to the CITES Convention, with a special focus on the rhino horn trade, and also cooperation in the field of raising awareness and education both in Vietnam and the Czech Republic.

Being intensively engaged in activities to save rhinos on a long term basis, Dvůr Králové Zoo has drawn attention to itself with its international Burn Horns Save Rhinos campaign! In September 2014 it publicly burned more than 50 kilograms of confiscated horns to demonstrate that it deems the rhino horn trade to be unacceptable and that the horns in fact have no value at all. In addition, Dvůr Králové Zoo returns rhinos back to Africa, where animals born at the zoo have already managed to breed successfully. Together with leading scientists, the zoo also participates in developing methods of assisted reproduction with the aim of saving the most endangered mammals today, the Northern White Rhinos.

Comments:

[1] The current figures of rhinos killed by poachers can be found at: here or here.

[2] CITES is the officially used abbreviation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. To find out more, go to here.

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