Wildlife trade threatens species and habitats

Mr Ong Junkai outlines a misguided stance on wildlife conservation (Responsible commercialisation will aid wildlife conservation; Aug 18).

Mr Ong has, time and again, gravely misinterpreted fundamental principles of wildlife conservation. He argues that commercial wildlife trade helps in wildlife protection. This is a dangerous myth.

First, attaching commercial value to wildlife has been one of the top reasons for the catastrophic loss of wildlife populations, as it drives poaching and illegal trade. The Sunda pangolin is an example of how a species can be poached to the brink of extinction because of the wildlife trade.

Wildlife trade fuels the capture of animals from natural environments for profit, and is often unsustainable. Removing large proportions of species from their habitats not only has an impact on their populations, but also threatens the very ecosystems they live in.

Second, Mr Ong views wildlife as a "resource for mankind" that needs to be "managed well". This is also misguided.

Natural landscapes need to be managed well as they provide us with ecosystem services, like clean air and water.

Good management requires the protection of wildlife in their natural habitats, as they, in turn, maintain the balance within these environments and the ecosystem services that we benefit from.

Well-managed natural landscapes for tigers, for example, have been found to provide billions of dollars in economic benefits, and supply water to as many as 830 million people across the globe.

Third, Mr Ong takes a one-sided view that global organisations, such as the United Nations, promote "legitimate wildlife trade", which is inaccurate.

Wildlife trade is regulated on a global level precisely to prevent the exploitation of wild animals and plants for illicit trafficking.

To safeguard biodiversity, the UN recognises the role of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora as the legal framework for regulating the trade of wildlife.

Fundamentally, the World Wide Fund for Nature opposes any activity that threatens species or habitat sustainability.

The illegal wildlife trade is rampant and continues to be a top threat to wildlife around the world.

Instances of responsible and sustainable wildlife trade are in the minority, and mostly cannot work without watertight legal and enforcement oversight.

We stand behind all conservation efforts to strengthen local wildlife laws to ensure that Singapore plays no part in a global trade that threatens wildlife.

Elaine Tan (Ms)

Chief Executive Officer

WWF-Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2018, with the headline 'Wildlife trade threatens species and habitats'. Subscribe