March 3rd, 2015 marks the 2nd anniversary of World Wildlife Day proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly. On this day, the world is rallying together and spreading a simple message, “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime.”
Within this blog post, I can bring our collective spirits down by focusing on the rise of poaching of elephants, rhinos, tigers and illegal logging. But I don’t want to do that.
As a young conservationist and stubborn optimist, I remain hopeful and positive that changes are occurring. By no means am I an expert; however, wildlife trafficking and crime is gaining international attention, the White House is making it a priority, and I would argue that we are seeing a change in perception and value of wildlife within younger generations. Within Tigers for Tigers, I am truly inspired by our T4T leaders and members. They have a bright energy, a positive attitude and a fantastic outlook on the opportunities ahead of them. Their innovative ideas to amplify and capture their school spirit for tigers have been uplifting. If we can remain positive, celebrate our mascot, and address the serious issues regarding wildlife crimes, we are powerful. Does that mean that there is not a lot of work that still need to be addressed? Of course not!
To me, this year’s World Wildlife Day should reinforce our commitment to address wildlife crimes and to commend those heroes on the ground, who are taking a stand. I have had a pleasure of meeting a few of these heroes like Ian Saunders of Tsavo Trust, Judy Mills, author of Blood of the Tiger, Debbie Banks of the Environmental Investigation Agency and Grace Gabriel of the International Fund for Animal Welfare early in my career. All of them are willing to take a stand and don’t back down. They are true fighters and champions. They are the ones who we should celebrate and thank for their continued efforts to address the issues on the ground.
Growing up in Ithaca, NY I can recall going to see the Lion King with my father at the State Theater when I was five. I will always remember the moment when my father handed me a movie poster of Mufasa and Simba outside of the theater. Within that moment, I was inspired to get involved in wildlife, or to become a little explorer with a safari hat. It was an amazing father and son bonding experience. I want to have that same experience with my kids. I want to let them know that we, within the conservation community, took a stand, and got serious about wildlife crime. I want to take my kids back to the State Theater in “X” years, watch the Lion King, and tell them, that yes, we don’t have to worry about these majestic animals going extinct. If we can act and work together as one unit, we can make a difference.
You can take action today in the following ways to support #WorldWildlifeDay:
Get involved with Tigers for Tigers and Save Our Mascot.
Attend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Q&A Session at 1pm EST with their Wildlife Forensic Lab.
Attend a Google Hangout with the U.S. State Department at 9am EST and listen to a panelist of experts on wildlife crime.
Join the UN ThunderClap Campaign and share it with your friends.
So let’s get serious about wildlife crime, but celebrate the animals we love and the heroes that protect them. Let’s stay positive.