World Heritage Sites were established by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) not just to preserve the history of mankind, but to also preserve some of the world’s most biodiverse areas from illegal poaching and wildlife tracking. But according to the World Wildlife Federation’s “Not For Sale” report, endangered species are being poached at almost half of these sites.
There are 203 of these Heritage Sites designated across the world. These sites are critically important because they protect numerous beloved and rare species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES has been agreed upon by 182 nations and the European Union to conserve and protect endangered species. 40% of the Africa’s elephants and a third of the world’s tigers all live at UNESCO sites.
“This report is a sobering reminder of just how far this type of organised crime can reach, extending even into the supposed safety of world heritage sites,” Inger Andersen, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said in a statement. “This is a global challenge that can only be tackled through collective, international action.”
The trade of endangered species on the black market is staggering, and these crimes alone contribute up to $20 billion a year to that black market. There’s a lot of money in illegal logging as well, which is 90% of deforestation in nations with tropical forest.
The WWF hopes to see more coordination and a serious plan between CITES, the World Heritage Convention, and other national governments.
“Natural World Heritage sites are among the most recognised natural sites for their universal value. Yet many are threatened by destructive industrial activities and our new report shows that their often unique animals and plants are also affected by overexploitation and trafficking,” added Marco Lambertini, Director General at WWF International.
“Unless they are protected effectively, we will lose them forever. Governments must redouble their efforts and address the entire wildlife trafficking value chain, before it’s too late.”