The calf is ungainly, still too young to have grown into her limbs. She stumbles on her cumbersome feet and emits pitiful cries of hunger and confusion as she searches for milk. Her mother lies on her side, her leathery body drenched in the russet dust of the savanna. Perhaps this wouldn't be such a distressing and heartrending scene if it weren't for the knurled patch of butchered skin above the mother's nostril. Skin that should taper into the pearly splendour of a horn...
This is a video that has been circulating on social media, evoking cries of outrage and sympathy for this mother and her, now orphaned, calf. But, unfortunately, this is merely one manifestation of a much wider problem. A problem that spans continents and species, a problem that results in the deaths of millions of creatures and costs over $19 billion per year. This, of course, is the Illegal Wildlife Trade.
This week I attended the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference - an important assemblage that could act as a catalyst in combatting the wholesale illegal decimation of wildlife across the globe. Pledges were uttered and change was promised, a small glimmer of hope in an otherwise tragic situation. As I said in my speech, we are at crisis point, but we cannot and must not let that define the future of the species that we hold so dear. This is a lucrative and booming trade that has been allowed to escalate uncontrollably, but we cannot give up, not when we know that today alone, 55 elephants have been slaughtered for their teeth, rhino killed for their horns, tigers for their bones and pangolins for their scales... These are only a handful of the victims that are targeted by the syndicates who see animals not as living entities, but as products to be utilised as they see fit.
However, the blame does not lie exclusively on the poachers and traders. They are merely fuelling a demand that may appear sadistic and gruesome to us, but is seen as the epitome of affluence to some. This is where I see the solution. If we remove the fuel then the fire will go out. If we remove the demand then the annihilation will cease. That may not be a stainless solution, but we are in a perilous situation that requires immediate mobilisation. Will we take the path of extinction, or will we speak up against this gruesome trade and take action?
This whole trade is based upon the idea that money, a man-made concept, holds more value than the lives of magnificent creatures who greatly enrich our planet. We need to embrace the idea that wealth is not restricted to financial gain. If we lose our wildlife, then we will become ecologically bankrupt. Money can be created but elephants, rhinos and tigers, on the other hand, can't.
Here are seven ways that YOU can help stop the IWT.