San Diego Zoo Global has joined with zoos around the world in support of an international campaign to stop the massive and cruel illegal trade in wildlife—the fourth largest illegal trade in the world, after drugs, weapons and human trafficking. The global “Lend Your Eyes to the Wild” campaign encourages individuals to be the eyes and ears in the fight against wildlife trafficking.
In the past decade, wildlife trafficking has escalated into an international crisis, and it has become a multibillion-dollar-per-year global criminal activity. Wildlife trafficking includes the illegal activities of obtaining and selling live animals and plants, or parts of animals and plants, such as meat, ivory, horns, bones, teeth, fur, skin, wood, leaves, feathers and shells. Illegal wildlife and related products are sold to people as exotic pets; exotic food; items for adornment and display; items to show off wealth or status; or as remedies for ailments that have no proven effectiveness.
"San Diego Zoo Global is in the business of ending extinction; combating illegal wildlife trafficking is an important part of meeting that goal,” stated Randy Rieches, curator of mammals, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Tragically, animals and plant species are being killed or taken from the wild in epic proportions, decimating their populations and affecting ecosystems.”
The “Lend Your Eyes to the Wild” campaign encourages travelers to Southeast Asia to report illegal wildlife trade activities they may observe in markets, in shops or at airports, through the use of Wildlife Witness, a free app that can be downloaded on iPhones and Android devices. The app—developed by Taronga Zoo in Australia in conjunction with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network—allows individuals to take a photo, “pin” the exact location of an incident and send these important details to TRAFFIC. The information received is then routed to the proper legal authorities capable of arresting and prosecuting those engaged in the trade. The app user who identifies the illegal wildlife trafficking situation remains anonymous throughout the process.
“Our partnership with TRAFFIC and the Taronga Zoo in supporting this mobile app is another way to raise awareness for the plight of endangered wildlife,” said Rieches. “We can’t do this alone; we need everyone’s help.”