UN: More global effort needed to address plight of big cats

A herd of elephants.PHOTO/AP

This year, World Wildlife Day is focusing on big cats. The United Nations declared the day to highlight the need for greater international collaboration to prevent poaching and the demand for illegal animal products.

CGTN’s Nick Harper reports from New York

The hunter has become the hunted. The world’s big cats are predators under threat.

This year the UN is urging all of us to take pride in ensuring their survival.

“These charismatic creatures are increasingly in danger of extinction. Big cats have undergone a massive decline in recent times. Just over a century ago, there were as many as 100,000 wild tigers living in Asia. Today, fewer than 4,000 remain.  They have lost 96 per cent of their historic range. The story is similar for all the big cats. They say cats have nine lives.  Our big cats are on at least number eight.” UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said

Big strides have been made in cat conservation, to monitor and maintain animal populations.

But poaching remains a threat, with cats killed for their skins, bones and bodies parts.

The Nonhuman Rights Project is a legal advocacy group fighting for the rights of animals.

“There’s growing recognition that when we simply partition the world as property, as things, we don’t give it the respect it truly deserves. And not only is it unjust it appears it eventually bubbles back and harms us as well.” Kevin Schneider, Nonhuman Rights project said.

Indeed, Africa nations in particular have realized the importance of wildlife for their economies.

The Elephant Protection Initiative has seen 18 African countries unite to stop the killing of an estimate 30,000 elephants a year for their ivory.

Countries like China have also made sweeping changes. A total ban on the sale of ivory came into force in January.

“The decision by the Chinese government has had a dramatic impact on African populations of elephants already. We’ve seen a decrease in the average price of ivory and we’ve seen a diminution of poaching pressure on many African elephant populations.” DR John Robinson said.

Wildlife groups say a unified approach is needed to protect wildlife populations, and address the demand for wildlife products.

Collaboration and countries’ own efforts have helped raise awareness, battle illegal practices and ultimately strengthen species’ populations. But challenges remain in the fight to keep animals alive and off the endangered list.