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You Can Help in the War on Wildlife Trafficking

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Two days ago, twenty-four rhino horns were seized at Prague's airport and 16 people were charged with bringing them illegally from South Africa to sell in Asia. With over 500 rhinos killed so far, we are on track to lose 1,000 rhinos to poaching this year alone. This is an almost 50 percent increase from last year, which was an almost 50 percent increase from the year prior, and so forth -- the rate of rhino poaching has been increasing rapidly. These numbers are horrific, but we don't need more statistics to tell us that the rhino population is in crisis. If we don't do something now, rhinos will be extinct by 2025 (if not sooner) after inhabiting the earth for millions of years.

Once rhinos are gone, humans will move on to the next species, then the next. We are like a virus: The earth is our host, and we are slowly depleting its resources. We go from one thing to the next -- "mutating" -- and consume it, but we will ultimately destroy our lifeblood and limit ourselves. And it has already started to happen. This is the third and worst rhino poaching crisis that South Africa has seen, and rhinos are not the only victims.

Wildlife trafficking has become the second-largest illegal international trade, with the drug trade at the top of the list, and weapons and human trafficking behind it. Thousands of animals and plants are being poached for collections, delicacies, religious reasons, and purported medical properties, and are smuggled away in all sorts of creative ways. Recently in the news, 34 kilograms of ivory disguised as chocolate bars was seized in Macau, and 400 30-kilogram boxes of frozen pangolins were discovered in the cargo hold of a Chinese ship. Less risky than drugs but with an equally high reward, we are quickly killing off many species. Wildlife trafficking is also tied in directly with terrorism all over the world, specifically funding terrorism in Mozambique and China. President Obama's recent Executive Order "Combatting Wildlife Trafficking" is a great start, but we all need to get involved and spread awareness.

So make rhino poaching, illegal horn trading and ownership social taboo. Inform those around you, particularly children, who can teach their parents about wildlife trafficking now, and then grow up knowledgeable about this crisis. Explain that rhino horn has no medicinal properties, and it comes from a live animal that is killed. Spread appreciation for the world's finite (and dwindling) flora and fauna. Don't doubt the power of social media -- remember the Arab Spring, where social media effectively disseminated and organized a series of revolutions that caused multiple regimes to be overthrown in a period of a few months. The rhino crisis needs a push to do something, and there is power in numbers. Be that push. If we wait too long, it won't matter because there will be no more rhinos left to protect. Don't wait until it's too late. Spread awareness and educate those around you; you can make a difference.

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