Elephants and rhinos could be extinct within two decades, campaigners are warning ahead of marches across the world to call for greater protection for the two species.
Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in Europe, the United States, South America, Africa and Asia for the “Global March for Elephants and Rhinos” today, with events in Edinburgh as well as in London, Bristol and Birmingham.
Wildlife campaigners warn that with around 35,000 elephants and 1,000 rhinos killed each year as demand for ivory and rhino horn drives spiralling rates of poaching, both species are potentially within two decades of becoming extinct.
The global march is calling for measures to tackle the problem, including a full worldwide ban on the trade of ivory and rhino horn.
Campaigners are also calling for ivory and rhino horn shops and carving factories to be closed with immediate effect, implementation of tougher penalties for wildlife crime, and urgent strengthening of law enforcement in countries where the animals are found and the products are sold.
Sir David Attenborough, Sir Richard Branson, Rory Bremner, Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais, Damon Albarn and Michaela Strachan are among the high-profile names who have given messages of support to the march.
Hundreds of people are set to march through London wearing elephant and rhino masks.
BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nicky Campbell, who is giving a speech to the marchers, said: “There are many grave issues facing the world. The potential extinction of these beautiful species is yet another. It is senseless and pitiless, driven by greed, vanity and ignorance. ”
Co-organiser of the London march, Maria Mossman of Action4Elephants, a group formed in response to the huge increase in poaching in recent years, said: “It would be devastating and criminal if elephants and rhinos went extinct within 20 years, but that is the frightening reality. It will happen, if something isn’t done.
“The march is a way for people around the world to show that we’renot going to accept this.”
Philip Mansbridge, chief executive of the group Care for the Wild International, said: “Make no mistake, there are a lot of good people and organisations doing their utmost to save these animals, from governments to Prince William to the rangers on the ground defending them with their own lives. But is it enough?
“By backing the global march, we’re saying it’s not just our problem, it’s your problem – everyone. Who among us wasn’t amazed the first time we saw a picture of an elephant or a rhino? But beyond the sentiment, these animals are vital to the planet and it’s vital to us as a species that we save them, otherwise we’ve failed.”