World Environment Day 2016 will be celebrated this Sunday (5 June), bringing attention to the illegal trade in wildlife.

Greater public awareness, public engagement, and public mobilization will be required, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) “in the efforts to put an end to this very damaging trade.”

Elliot Harris, Director of UNEP’s
Elliot Harris, Director of UNEP’s

Elliot Harris, Director of UNEP’s office in New York, told reporters today (3 June) that “the illegal trade in wildlife is booming. It is eroding precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage, and at the same time, driving several species to the brink of extinction.”

The trade, he said, “undermines economies and legal systems, it fuels organized crime, and it feeds corruption and insecurity across the globe.”

Harris noted that in 2011, “one sub-species of the Javan rhino went extinct in Vietnam. The last Western black rhino disappeared from Cameroon in the same year. Great apes no longer live in Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Togo; other countries could quickly follow.”

Other lesser-known victims, he said, “include helmeted hornbills and pangolins as well as wild orchids and timbers like Rosewood. Flowers and timber are also considered wildlife and are subject to illegal trade.”