Do Elephants Deserve Foreign Aid?

13/12/2013 18:07 GMT | Updated 12/02/2014 10:59 GMT

Zac Goldsmith MP is calling on the UK government to release some of its billions of 'Foreign Aid' money to help stop the decimation of wildlife in developing nations.

We at Care for the Wild helped to draft the wording of Zac's Early Day Motion (EDM) and fully support it, but why?

Surely Foreign Aid is meant to save humans, not animals? So the question is - how can saving an elephant help a human?

Basically, wildlife and humans need each other - they always have and they always will, but not always for the right reasons. Right now in Africa, an elephant is killed for its tusks every 15 minutes - around 40,000 each year - for a lovely trinket to adorn someone's mantel piece, or to be used as chopsticks, jewellery or a business gift to prove stature.

It's not just elephants. This year in South Africa alone, some 900 rhinos have been killed for their horn - this compares with 668 last year (and by way of comparison of just how severe the issue has got over recent years, this is an increase of over 6000% since 2005). All these precious rhinos dead, just to show wealth in Vietnam, or simply just to look cool curing a hangover.

And it's not just the 'flagship' species - you name it, someone (in fairness, mostly someone in China) - consumes it - tiger bones, lion bones, bear bile, reptiles, pangolins, the list goes on.

But to go back to the original question, why does this matter for humans, many of whom are in desperate need of health provisions, education, water and more?

Quite simply because, as the figures so clearly reflect, poaching has moved on.

We're not talking about the select band of rich westerners, predominantly from the States, who pay large sums of money to kill beautiful endangered animals. (Note: paying $150,000 to shoot a defenceless animal does NOT make you a man, it doesn't make you brave and it doesn't prove your hunting prowess - it just makes you look simple, arrogant, and in need of a serious self-esteem boost).

We're talking about the poachers who are now being funded and supported by large organised gangs. This criminality is seeping into communities, it is destroying tourism income for local people, it's helping corruption at high levels and it's stopping nations across Africa from moving forward.

Plus, it's killing people - in large numbers. Reported ranger killings over the last 10 years have reached over 1000, plus thousands more are estimated to have been killed locally. Terrorism is also linked - there is strong evidence suggesting that Al Shabaab, the group behind the Nairobi attacks - get funding from poaching.

What's also significant is that wildlife charities like ours are increasingly going beyond wildlife protection to achieve their aims as we recognise that engagement and buy in from the communities is the only way to achieve long term complex objectives.

As an example, we just purchased text books and stationery for two schools in Kenya as part of our Youth Wildlife Ambassadors program - to enhance their opportunities in the future and keep them away from the temptation to poach, which is often driven by the lack of education and opportunities. We also support a variety of projects that directly help communities - offering alternative income streams, education, healthcare and more.

With it now formally recognised by the UN that illegal wildlife crime is the fourth biggest illegal global trade by value in the world (at around $20b per annum), it's hats off to Zac, as what he has done in submitting this EDM is to call time on the attitude that wildlife crime only affects animals. It doesn't - it's destroying people too.

And we're not talking ridiculous numbers: just a fraction of the UK's international aid budget could make significant dents in wildlife crime. So whether you care about wildlife, or people, or both, I hope you realise that we need governments around the world, including our own, to take decisive action - and soon.

Please, make your voice heard: sign our petition, and ask your MP to sign the EDM.

Sign the petition here

You can learn more about the EDM here

Fore more information, see