UK launches ‘If they’re gone’ campaign


More than half of people in the UK think orangutans may be extinct in the wild in 30 years (credit: Daniel Kleeman)

Four iconic wildlife species are spearheading a new year-long campaign in the UK to help protect and conserve endangered species. The tiger, rhino, elephant and orangutan are the key species being used in the campaign called ‘If They’re Gone…’. the campaign has been launched to coincide with the start of the CITES meeting in Bangkok.

The campaign was launched at the Cotswold Wildlife Park by Environment Secretary Own Paterson. On launching the campaign he said, “Today, I am launching a very important campaign. ‘If They’re Gone…’ aims to raise awareness and encourage individuals to take action to protect four of the planet’s most iconic species, rhinos, elephants, orang-utans and tigers, from extinction.

“I don’t want future generations to think of these species in the same way I think of the Dodo. We must act now.

“It’s by working together that we show international leadership in the fight against the disastrous trade in wildlife and devastating impact of deforestation.”

Results of a telephone survey undertaken by YouGov was also released which showed that 54% of the public believe that the four species will not be alive in the wild in 30 years.

The ‘If They’re Gone…’ campaign will run for a full year and starts with a focus on rhinos. Every three months the focus will switch. A poster competition aimed at primary school children and an extensive programme of activity by all partners will run during different parts of the year.

Charlie Mayhew, CEO of Tusk Trust said, “On average this year one rhino has been lost to poachers every 11 hours. If this poaching continues to escalate, a species, which has existed on this planet for 40 million years, faces the very real prospect of extinction in our lifetime.  We cannot be the generation that allows this to happen and Tusk is working hard to preserve all endangered species in Africa.”

Reggie Heyworth, Owner of Cotswold Wildlife Park, explained, “Rhinos are perhaps the iconic species at Cotswold Wildlife Park, and the recovery of the White Rhino population in the 20th Century from near extinction proves that we can save these magnificent animals. We must not let the poachers and the illicit traders win in the 21st Century: Rhinos now are under dreadful pressure but we can make a difference. The tide has been reversed before and we can do it again. We are all diminished as human beings by the poaching of these magnificent animals, and we must all do what we can to save them”.

The campaign is a joint venture being run between DEFRA and more than 20 wildlife organisations including zoos and safari parks. The aim is to raise awareness and inform people of what they can do to help ensure that these iconic species remain living in the wild for generations to comes.

Members of the public are being asked to undertake the following actions:

  • Think before you buy anything that could be made from or contain body parts of endangered species;
  • Ask where products have come from and if they have been produced sustainably;
  • Get involved and support wildlife conservation programmes;
  • Spread the word – tell your friends and family about tigers, rhinos, elephants and orangutans and how important it is to help protect them; and
  • Report any suspicious activity concerning the buying and selling of wildlife products to your local police.

Owen Paterson added, “Together we can all make a difference by finding out if products have been produced sustainably and not buying goods made from illegal body parts or ivory.

“There are no medicinal benefits to traditional Asian medicines that contain animal parts and by turning your back on them you can help to protect these iconic animals


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