Kenyan Olympian Julius Yego locked horns with the illegal trade in wildlife on World Rhino Day, joining a huge global campaign to conserve endangered species.
Yego, a silver medalist in the Javelin at the Rio Olympics and nicknamed Mr. YouTube Man for learning to throw by watching videos online, is backing endangered rhinos in #WildForLife. The campaign has engaged millions of people across the globe since its launch at the UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi this May.
“I learned to throw the javelin from watching videos on YouTube, but I don’t want this to be the only place where people can see rhinos in the future,” said Yego. “I’m standing up for rhinos to make people understand we can’t keep killing them.”
Remaining rhino populations are under threat from poachers looking to sell their horns on international black markets. About 96 per cent of black rhinos were lost to poaching between 1970 and 1992. In 2015, poachers killed at least 1,338 rhinos in Africa. Today, there are just 4,800 black rhinos left in the wild.
The illegal trade in wildlife is a global problem that threatens species great and small, from elephants to tigers to pangolins.
The Great Elephant Census, released earlier this month, emphasized how bad the problem has become, showing that poaching has driven a 30 per cent decrease in African savanna elephants over just four years. Pangolins – scaly anteaters – are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. Great Apes are already locally extinct in several African nations.
Profits from the illegal wildlife trade sometimes go into the pockets of international criminal networks, threatening peace and security, and damaging the livelihoods of local communities who depend on tourism.
Nations will consider new measures to protect species at a global meeting of the UN Environment-hosted Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which gets underway in Johannesburg this weekend. At the meeting, UN Environment will launch a new database highlighting the scale of the threat facing great apes.
#WildforLife aims to mobilize the world to make commitments and take action to end the illegal trade. The campaign is run by UN Environment, the UN Development Programme, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.