Powell, OH – More than 200 conservationists representing over 40 zoos as well as wildlife programs in 36 countries have called on governments around the world to immediately increase the resources needed to combat the alarming rise in the illegal wildlife trade. Meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, earlier this month, zoo officials, scientists, and wildlife experts with the 9th Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation Conference (ZACC) agreed that urgent action is needed to combat the well-organized and heavily armed criminals who are draining the world's ecosystems of wildlife and threatening human populations.
On the heels of the U.S. government's recent announcement of $10 million to assist African countries with anti-poaching efforts to protect elephants, rhinos and other wildlife, the ZACC delegates urged all governments and international groups to launch sustained campaigns to stop the illegal killing of wildlife, including increased law enforcement with prompt and serious punishments for wildlife crime, more cooperation between governments to combat cross-border activity, and campaigns to raise awareness among consumers about the illegal wildlife trade.
ZACC delegates also noted that the wildlife trade was devastating imperiled species on several continents including the world’s most iconic species such as big cats and great apes, sharks and rays, countless birds, turtles and other reptiles, and lesser-known animals, such as pangolins and slow lorises. The trade is feeding demand for illegal traditional medicine, exotic pets, bushmeat, and other wildlife products such as ivory. In parts of the world, poaching and overexploitation have created the "empty forests" phenomenon where even small species such as bats, birds, and rodents have been wiped out.
The illegal wildlife trade is not a subsistence activity, but rather an industry based on organized crime worth multibillions of dollars annually. In addition to decimating animal populations worldwide and robbing current and future generations of their irreplaceable natural heritage, the illegal wildlife trade has been linked to organized criminal activities such as the illicit drug trade, weapons proliferation, and human trafficking. In many parts of the world, the illegal wildlife trade is generating money that funds terrorism.
The Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation Conference (ZACC) was initiated by the Columbus Zoo in 1995. The conference brings together wildlife conservation advocates from zoos and field projects across the globe for greater cooperation on behalf of globally threatened wild animals and their habitats. The Columbus Zoo provides support to 70 conservation projects in 35 countries each year through the Conservation Fund.
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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 575 species from around the globe. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates the Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; contributing more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.