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Sbonelo Mkhize

Year-Prize: The 9th Eco-generation Environmental Essay Competition     Item: Fight against illegal trade in wildlife

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The fight against illegal trade in wildlife

Illegal trade in wildlife in my country and its effect on future generations

Winner's name: Sbonelo Mkhize (South Africa)

Prize: Honorable Mention

I remember growing up and learning about the ?dodo?, what a fascinating creature I thought it was in all its splendour, that flightless bird with a strange beak, nesting on the ground and enjoying fruits that had fallen from the trees. So free and undisturbed was the dodo in its natural habitat that it lost its need and ability to fly. Unfortunately though, we will never see the dodo for what it truly is/was because it has been extinct since the 1700s- thanks to humans. All that is left now are drawings of these birds. My essay seeks to explore illegal trade in wildlife in my country and its effect on future generations. Unfortunately, illegal trade in wildlife in my country will have the similar effects that the extinction of the dodo had on mine.

Imagine waking up to a world with no dogs, no cats, and no parrots- in fact imagine waking up to a world with no pets at all. It?s quite a scary thought isn?t it? A world with no wildlife is equally scary. So scary in fact, that the president of the united states- Barak Obama has called the illegal trade in wildlife an ?international crisis? and thus, the Obama administration has planned to aggressively target the $20-billion-a-year industry. Yes, illegal trade in wildlife is estimated to be worth around $20-billion a year according to The New York Times.

Illegal trade in wildlife not only proves to be an ?international crisis? but has also proven to be a rather private crisis to me as a proud citizen of South Africa- a country that is not only well known for being one of the most multicultural countries in the world but also well known for its distinct ecosystem and biodiversity, with the ?big five? (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and white/black rhinoceros) remaining our pride and joy- so important in fact that these animals have been printed on our bank notes- the Rand. With that being said, the tourism industry plays an important role in the South African economy, with a vast number of tourists visiting the Kruger national park just to see these majestic beasts. But with the on-going illegal trade in these animals, I am afraid future generations will pay the harsh price of not only knowing what a rhino, elephant or any of the illegally traded animals looks like, but I?m afraid, the future generation of my country will be left to deal with tourist less country- hence a greatly reduced GDP in the tourism sector.

Damien Mander, founder of International Anti Poaching Foundation has coined the act of illegal trade in wildlife ?environmental terrorism?, and the term fits perfectly. With Asian pseudo-medical sciences that have claimed that ivory is capable of curing cancer, animals like the rhino and elephant are savagely killed just for their ivory- which is also considered a sign of wealth in many Asian cultures. Meanwhile, animals like the leopard are killed for their stunning skin which is then used for religious ceremonies by the local religious people of South African Shembe Baptist Church in parts of the province of KwaZulu Natal while western countries use the leopard skin to make lavish clothes for the rich. So, the question is, how do we deal with this environmental terrorism? Do we educate those who believe in pseudo-science? Stop the religious from practicing their religion? Stop those who make a living from making clothes from these animals? Or force the rich to stop buying these clothes? The answer in my opinion is quite simple, let?s create a stronger awareness campaign, an awareness campaign that will make them question if they want their future generation to grow up in a world where they study animals as things that used to be or in a generation filled with wildlife. Then let their conscience decide.

In conclusion, imagine if the dodo lived today imagine you knew that if humans continued hunting it down illegally, it would surely become extinct. What would you do? Would you allow the illegal trade to continue? If not, then why let humans continue hunting our wildlife when we know that the consequences are extinction of these animals? Let?s create awareness today and remember, ?The future of wildlife is in our hands?.


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