Written by: Sharon van Wyk
Across the world, every day people are becoming more and more angered by the illegal wildlife trade and the toll it is taking on key species, many of which are being pushed to the brink of extinction by nothing more than human greed.
The statistics are shocking. The meek and secretive pangolin is the most trafficked mammal on Earth, with millions falling prey to the culinary preferences of the Far East every year. Every quarter of an hour, somewhere in Africa, an elephant is killed for its tusks. Africa’s rhinos are faring no better, with poachers taking one every nine hours for a substance which has become the most expensive on the global black market – rhino horn. There are fewer than 22 000 Asian elephants left in the wild and Asian rhino will soon be just a memory. It is estimated that there are as few as 23 000 African lion left in the wild.
The illegal wildlife trade has grown to rival narcotics as the world’s most nefarious, and lucrative, of crimes, driven by an insatiable demand from China and the Far East.
These are the many and various reasons why on October 4, World Animal Day, millions of people will be taking to the streets in more than 113 cities across the world to march for wildlife under the banner of the Global March for Elephant and Rhino (GMFER).
“Aimed at highlighting the plight of the world’s elephant and rhino, the GMFER is not about raising money, it’s about raising voices for those who have none,” says businessman and conservation educator Dex Kotze, South Africa’s main GMFER organiser.
“We’ve got every-day people across the world going the extra mile to arrange marches in cities from as far afield as San Francisco and Auckland, Toronto and the Maasai Mara. Besides taking to the streets in a peaceful protest to draw attention to the plight of our elephant and rhino, we are also delivering a powerful Memoranda of Demand to the governments of range and demand states,” says Dex, who is CEO of Jenna Clifford Jewellers. “In addition, the South African marchers are delivering to the president and key government departments stringent demands for urgent changes to the country’s legislation to allow for stiffer penalties for poachers and tougher laws surrounding the illegal wildlife trade.”
In South Africa, there are currently 13 cities hosting GMFER marches, including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Stellenbosch, Durban, Rustenberg, Nelspruit, Bloemfontein and Grahamstown. Africa Geographic’s editor, Anton Crone, and CEO, Simon Espley, will be taking part in the Stellenbosch march, as well as the H.O.G (Harley Owners Group) motorcycle ride to Cape Town to present the memorandum.
“We need a real show of force in South Africa,” says Dex. “This is where the bulk of the world’s rhino population is steadily losing the battle against poaching, so we absolutely have to get out there on October 4 and show the world we are not going to take this slaughter of our precious wildlife any more,” he says. “Our elephants will soon go the same way. Already we have had two big tuskers killed in the northern part of the Kruger Park for their tusks. Elephant poaching is coming, and it’s going to hit us hard,” he adds.
“I want to ask everyone to give up a few hours of their time on October 4, to bring their families and have a nice, enjoyable walk on an easy route in their home cities or cities near them while showing their support for these incredible animals, who deserve a future where they will not be hunted down for their horns and tusks,” says Dex.
And of course, with technology the way it is these days, it’s not just about physically turning out for the GMFER, especially if you don’t live near a city hosting a march or are unable to join in on the day. The powers of social media are vital in a cause like this, as Dex explains. “We can raise a real storm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the like, and get virtual feet across the world to join us in this campaign.”