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On the 3rd of March 2013, the United Nations declared the World Wildlife Day "to celebrate and raise awareness of the world's wild animals and plants." Today in 2017, endangered species throughout the world remain at risk of becoming extinct due to unprecedented levels of poaching and trafficking, including tens of thousands of elephants, tigers, bears, rhinos, and pangolins. In Laos, the Asian elephant, Indochinese tiger, and Asian bear are distinct examples of the importance of wildlife in Laos’ history, culture, folklore, and heritage. Sadly, though, only 400 elephants now exist in the wild in Laos. Similarly, illegal trafficking in timber threatens to destroy wildlife habitats, encourages criminality and depletes the natural resources of local communities.
However, lawmakers, conservationists, and enforcement officials, are now working together to preserve Laos’ natural beauty. We applaud in particular the Prime Minister’s 2016 ban on all timber exports in order to better control illegal trafficking and Laos’ 2016 renewed commitments under the 17th Conference of the Parties - Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.
However, preserving Laos’ natural wealth is not just the job of the Lao government or the international community. Local communities can work together in schools and public meetings to raise awareness about the dangers of poaching and trafficking. Consumers, too, must avoid products made from endangered species. Individuals should report suspicious activities or potentially illegal wildlife products to authorities.
The theme of World Wildlife Day 2017 is “listen to the young voices.” This acknowledges that one quarter of the world’s population is between the ages of 10 and 24; in Laos two thirds of the population is under 25. "Wildlife trafficking is a problem that relates directly to young people who are the future of this world. I have the strong belief that today's young people will become the protectors [of wildlife], if they have opportunities to learn in the right way. We can play a big role to protect the animals so that they will stay with us forever."- Phouthavong Xaisouliane, 21 years old from Lao PDR, student at the National University of Lao PDR .
Illegal trafficking and poaching is a serious threat not only to ourselves, but also to future generations. We hope that Lao children will be able to grow up celebrating the land of a million elephants for generations to come and that our children will be able to share in their pride.
Wildlife Working Group 15.7.