Wildlife protection is essential for people and planet, IUCN says

Tiger lies on a sand road with her babies next to her
Tiger with her cubs, photo: Syna Tiger Resort on Unsplash

Protecting wildlife must be seen as an absolute necessity for people and the planet; this will be the key message at the world’s leading conservation congress that starts on Friday in the city of Marseille in France.

Loss of nature, climate change, pollution, diseases jumping from animals to humans have become huge threats that cannot be “understood or addressed in isolation,” the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said ahead of the meeting in a vision statement endorsed by its 1,400 members.

Over nine days, government ministries, indigenous groups and NGOs, backed by a network of 16,000 scientists, will work out conservation proposals.

Last year, the World Economic Forum said that $44 trillion of economic value generated every year highly depends on nature. Construction, agriculture, and food and beverages are the largest highly nature-dependent industries.

IUCN Red list
As the human population climbs toward nine billion by mid-century, many animals are being driven to extinction.

Nearly 135,000 plants and animals are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the standard for measuring how close animals and plants are to vanishing forever.

Nearly 28 percent of the list are currently at risk of extinction, with habitat loss, overexploitation and illegal wildlife trade driving the loss.

only 20,000 lions, 7,000 cheetahs and 4,000 tigers left in the wild


“I would certainly say that we’re on the cusp of a sixth mass extinction event,” Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN’s Red List Unit, told AFP. An update of the Red List on September 4 is likely to show an even bigger crisis.

Big cats, for example, have lost more than 90 percent of their historic range and population, with only 20,000 lions, 7,000 cheetahs, 4,000 tigers and a few dozen Amur leopards left in the wild.

Indigenous people share knowledge
For the first time in the IUCN’s seven-decade history, indigenous peoples will share their deep knowledge on how best to heal the natural world as voting members.

One proposal calls for a global pact to protect 80 percent of the Amazon rainforest by 2025.

“We are demanding from the world our right to exist as peoples, to live with dignity in our territories,” said Jose Gregorio Diaz Mirabal, lead coordinator for COICA, which represents indigenous groups in nine Amazon-basin nations.

Other motions offer help to oceans, including one calling for an end to plastic pollution by 2030. Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals, from otters to whales.

Wildlife trafficking, a multi-billion-dollar business that has flourished online, will also be in the spotlight.

And then there’s the question of money and the fact that so little of it has been set aside for nature and protecting animals.

Current global spending of about $80 billion a year needs to be increased 10-fold, said Sebastien Moncorps, director of France’s IUCN committee.

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