New Delhi: Illegal poaching, logging and fishing takes place in nearly 30% of the world heritage sites, driving endangered species to the brink of extinction and putting the livelihoods and well-being of communities who depend on them at risk, said a new report released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on Tuesday.
Known for their iconic beauty, geology, ecology and biodiversity, natural world heritage sites across the globe support large populations of rare plant and animal species, including almost a third of the world’s remaining 3,890 wild tigers and 40% of all African elephants.
The report, ‘Not For Sale,’ stressed that illegal harvesting of species in world heritage sites degrades vital social and economic benefits.
“Between 1970 and 2012, global wildlife populations declined by almost 60% on average, and illegal harvesting of species was one of the main drivers for this decline. World heritage sites now function as the last bastion for many critically endangered species, and unless protected within world heritage sites, these species will go extinct," it said.
“More than 90% of natural world heritage sites support recreation and tourism as well as provide jobs. Many of these benefits are dependent on the presence of CITES-listed species in these sites. Illegal exploitation of wild species also alters the natural ecosystem," the report added.
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
The report highlighted that in India, species such as rhinos, elephants, tigers and pangolins stand threatened by poaching, including at heritage sites such as the Kaziranga National Park, the Manas National Park and the Western Ghats.
“Natural world heritage sites are among the most recognized natural sites for their universal value. Yet many are threatened by destructive industrial activities and our new report shows that their often unique animals and plants are also affected by overexploitation and trafficking. Unless they are protected effectively, we will lose them forever. Governments must redouble their efforts and address the entire wildlife trafficking value chain, before it’s too late," said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International.
Lambertini called for collaborations between authorities to lead a coordinated and comprehensive response to halt wildlife trafficking - from harvesting of species in source countries, transportation through processing destinations, to sales in consumer markets.
“World heritage sites are universally recognized as the most important areas for the conservation of the Earth’s biodiversity and are some of the last remaining strongholds for many rare and endangered plants and animals. However, inspite of being protected under international conventions, many of these sites continue to be threatened by poaching and other activities, which if not curbed immediately could lead to the extinction of some of these species," said Ravi Singh, secretary general and CEO of the WWF India.