In a pioneer effort to curb the illegal wildlife trade in UK, the conservationists have launched a global campaign to enlist the support of the public.
The illegal wildlife trade continues to grow, despite efforts by campaigners to curb the practice. According to the United Nations, the illegal wildlife trade is worth billions of pounds each year.
In order to enlist the support of the public, the campaigners have developed a smartphone app that will allow people to submit images and data of suspicious items on sale.
Chris Shepherd, South-East Asia regional director of Traffic, expressed concern over the “unparalleled spike in illegal wildlife trade”.
“Sadly, animals are being illegally killed or taken from the wild around the world to be sold for traditional medicines, luxury food, horns or other parts, restaurant dishes, fashion items or pets.”
Dr Shepherd explained how people could help using the app,
“We want people to be the eyes and ears in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.”
The hike in the poaching of threatened species in the recent years has raised concern over the survival of endangered animals, such as tigers and rhinos.
Illegal Wildlife Trade Worth Billions
A recent report by UK think-tank Chatham House said demand was rising at an “alarming rate” for protected animal body parts and products in the Chinese black market.
The authors of the report said illegal ivory trade had more than doubled since 2007.
The prices of ivory had reached US $2,205 (£1,526) per kg in Beijing, while Rhino horn was selling for a price of US $66,000 per kg, more than the price of gold or platinum.
The app, called Wildlife Witness, was developed by Taronga Conservation Society Australia in collaboration with Traffic, the wildlife trade-monitoring network.
The main focus of the app is the South East Asia region, which has been identified as a hub of the global illegal wildlife trade.
Chester Zoo will raise awareness of the project across Europe while San Diego Zoo will raise awareness in the US.
“The reason why it is important for zoos to get involved is because we have access to really large audiences, and zoos have an important role to try and get these messages out,” said Scott Wilson, head of field programmes at Chester Zoo.
Mr Wilson told BBC News,
“If people are travelling or are on holiday and if they see something as they are walking through the markets and they see something – say a baby sun bear that should not be there, or ivory on sale that they suspect is illegal, they can record it with this app and the data goes straight to Traffic.
“This will really boost the amount of information that is coming through to them, and this helps them to identify trends in wildlife trade and – more importantly – they can use that data to try to influence the enforcement policies and the really big changes that need to take place.”
However, Mr Wilson also made it a point to say that people should not take unnecessary risks or confront people in the marketplace.