Press Release: 08/12/2013

Oakland Zoo Joins Fight to End Poaching

Contact:
Nicky Mora, Senior Marketing Manager/PR Amy Gotliffe, Conservation Director
(510) 632-9525 ext. 130 (510) 632-9525, ext 122
nmora@oaklandzoo.org amy@oaklandzoo.org

Oakland, CA, August 12, 2013

Oakland Zoo is partnering with more than 200 wildlife conservationists, representing more than forty zoos and wildlife programs in thirty-six countries to urge governments around the world to increase resources needed to combat the illegal wildlife trade. The goal is to raise public awareness that the time is now, governments and agencies must act.

“The spike in the illegal wildlife trade should be great cause for global alarm,” said Amy Gotliffe, Conservation Director at Oakland Zoo. “The decline in forest elephants, sharks, big cats and countless others is unfathomable. As these species are plucked from the wild, they cannot reproduce fast enough to keep natural systems functioning. This illegal trade threatens to not only devastate precious species, but could unravel entire ecosystems.”

During last month’s Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation Conference (ZACC), zoo officials, scientists, and wildlife experts came together to take action against poachers who are devastating wildlife populations around the world. Expanding awareness is an important role for zoos. It is the goal of ZACC to encourage the general public to view zoos as centers for wildlife conservation and reliable conservation information.

“Guatemala has already lost such beautiful and iconic animals as the Harpy eagle, giant anteater and the military macaw,” said Colum Muccio, ARCAS Administrative Director. “We are currently struggling to save the scarlet macaw, jaguar and leatherback sea turtle. Wildlife trafficking is a major cause of these extinctions. This threat makes our work ever-more difficult, threatening not only the survival of these species, but also the livelihoods of the marginalized, rural residents who are our allies in saving endangered Guatemalan animals.”

According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade, threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains. Ivory estimated to weigh more than 23 metric tons—a figure that represents 2,500 elephants—was seized in the thirteen largest seizures of illegal ivory in 2011. Poaching threatens the last of wild tigers that number as few as 3,200. This is an organized, illegal, multibillion-dollar business that desperately needs stricter regulation. If this practice does not change, tigers, rhinos, elephants and more will become extinct. The illegal wildlife trade is an industry based on supply and demand. Not only is this deplorable activity destroying animal populations worldwide, the illegal wildlife trade has also been linked to illicit drug trade operations, weapons proliferation, and human trafficking.

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Division have identified the illegal commercialization of our state wildlife resources as our top priority,” said Mike Carion, Chief of Enforcement, California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “In California, native abalone, sturgeon and bear are the target species and wildlife officers are dedicated to efforts to stop all activities associated with commercialization of these valuable resources.”

Following the U.S. government's $10 million promise to assist African countries with anti-poaching efforts to protect wildlife, ZACC delegates are now urging all governments and international groups to help stop the illegal killing of wildlife. Oakland Zoo is now joining in the fight and is speaking out against the illegal wildlife trade.

“We take this issue seriously at Oakland Zoo and aim to help in any way possible,” said Amy Gotliffe, Conservation Director. “We often offer vet care for wildlife that has being subjected to illegal wildlife ownership or trade and some of these animals have found their forever home here. We support projects all over the world that aid this issue, such as the Budongo Snare Removal Project in Uganda that helps chimpanzees snared by poachers and the Amboseli Fund for Elephants in Kenya that uses research to combat elephant poaching. Our partner project in Guatemala, ARCAS, deals directly with the issue, as they rescue and release confiscated animals on their way from the forest into the illegal wildlife trade. We also work in partnership with our own government agencies to support their efforts in this growing illegal industry, and are often dismayed at the variety of skins, tusks, and horns that the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offer us for educational purposes.”

The illegal trade tragedy happening right now is feeding demand for illegal traditional medicine, exotic pets, bushmeat and other wildlife products, such as ivory. Oakland Zoo, along with their numerous colleagues from ZACC, believes stricter laws, stronger enforcement, and more wide spread education is crucial in the fight to end these potentially irreversible crimes. Awareness can offer an understanding of the effects of the wildlife trade, inspiring a consumer behavior change that will decrease demand, and therefore the market. Zoos and other environmental education outlets are hopeful venues for collaborating to make these anti-poaching and consumer action messages loud and clear. Oakland Zoo cares deeply about this issue and it is within the organization’s mission to take action to conserve animals in the wild. The next 20 years are crucial.

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ABOUT OAKLAND ZOO:

The Bay Area's award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and supports wildlife conservation on-site, locally and globally. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, in 500-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, off Highway 580. The East Bay Zoological Society (Oakland Zoo) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supported in part by members, contributions, the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks.

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