Imagine a world without wildlife

by ZSL on

We have lost 52% of the world’s wildlife in the past 40 years. If this rate of decline continues, many species could be totally wiped out within our lifetimes.

Imagine a world without the elephant, the tiger or the rhino. The animals that fired our imaginations as we grew up could disappear for good.

Among other threats, the illegal trade in animal parts, meat and exotic pets is threatening some of our most beloved species.

It’s a global problem, requiring global solutions – and, unless we act now, it may well be too late, writes Craig Bruce, ZSL’s head of Asia conservation programmes. 

Black rhino in the Massai Mara, Kenya. Photo: Renaud Fulconis / Awely
Black rhino in the Massai Mara, Kenya.

It’s one of the world’s most iconic and best-loved animals; yet every 15 minutes – perhaps about as long as it will take you to read this blog – an elephant will be killed by poachers. Nearly 100 of these awe-inspiring creatures are slaughtered every day to supply the illegal ivory market. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Millions of other animals are being illegally traded each year to meet consumer demand for their meat, or for their body parts, to use in traditional medicines, status-symbol decorations or curios.

What we’re facing right now is absolutely unprecedented. In all the years I have been working in conservation, I have never seen anything quite like today’s demand. There have been occasional “spikes” in wildlife crime over the decades, but nothing on the current scale.

The illegal wildlife trade is now believed to be in the top five most lucrative criminal activities after counterfeiting and the illegal trafficking of drugs, people and oil. Along with other forms of exploitation, it is one of the biggest threats to the survival of some of our most endangered animals.

Ivory seizure in Cameroon

The growth of road networks and other infrastructure in previously remote habitats has only made it easier for meat, tusks, horns, pangolin scales and other animal parts to be trafficked. Meanwhile, the demand for such products continues to evolve.

Animal body parts have traditionally been used in Asian medicine, and it only takes one false rumour – for example, that rhino horn can cure cancer – to double demand for the product overnight. Many newly rich people in China are buying tiger wine or tiger skins as status symbols to demonstrate their wealth.

Many animals are being slaughtered faster than their species can reproduce. Last year was the sixth in a row that the African elephant death rate was higher than the birth rate.

With this kind of decline, we could easily see the last of some of the world’s most charismatic wildlife, including wild elephants and rhinos, in the space of our lifetimes – if not far sooner.

Read the full article in our members’ magazine Wild About. Or pick up a copy at our Zoo gift shops.

With Wildlife campaign image Elephant

 

Help us work for a world with wildlife 

Select a blog

Careers at ZSL

Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.

Nature at the heart of global decision making

At ZSL, a key area of our work is the employment of Nature-based Solutions – an approach which both adapt to and mitigates the impacts of climate change. These Solutions, which include habitat protection and restoration, are low-cost yet high-impact, and provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife. We ensure that biodiversity recovery is at the heart of nature-based solutions. 

ZSL London Zoo

A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!

Conservation

We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.

Science

From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.

Education

A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.

Artefact of the month

Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.

Wild About

Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.

Asia Conservation Programme

ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.