25 September 2016
‘These creatures are iconic and very precious. They’re the only ones we’ve got’ - John Cleese
Legendary comedian, actor, writer, film producer and passionate conservationist, John Cleese, has sent a stark video message to delegates at the United Nations wildlife trade conference, CITES CoP17, which is taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa:
“Our great planet is eating itself. And if we don’t act now and start thinking about the future, this Earth will become a biological desert within the lifetimes of our children.”
In the video message, the Monty Python superstar and Born Free Patron warns that some of the planet’s most iconic species – including lions, elephants and rhino - are under serious threat from climate change, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, and must be granted the greatest protection possible before it is too late.
Cleese says: “Now, right now, the Born Free Foundation is campaigning to ban the global ivory trade, to prevent making rhino horn trade legal, and to give lions greater protection in law and in the wild. It’s time to recognise that we can’t go on the way that we’re doing. That the world’s population is set to exceed 11 billion by the end of this century. It’s clear that we cannot continue to exploit and consume the natural world and we need to think about the future right now, at this minute.”
Cleese also reveals some sobering statistics: that between 2007 and 2014 there has been a 30% decline in African elephants; that over 1,300 rhinos were murdered in South Africa in 2015 alone; and that there are just 20,000 lions left in the wild in Africa.
“It’s an incredibly tiny number,” Cleese adds. “These creatures are iconic and very precious. They’re the only ones we’ve got.”
The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is currently taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa, until 5th October. CITES aims to ensure that international trade in a species of animal or plant does not threaten their survival. It is an international treaty between governments and is legally binding. Every three years, the 182 Member Countries (or Parties) of CITES meet to review the impact of international trade on various species at the CoP, making changes to their protection and to how the Convention operates.
An international delegation of scientists and experts from Born Free is attending CITES CoP17 to discuss 62 crucial proposals that will set the future for many embattled species across the world.
Will Travers OBE, President and CEO of Born Free Foundation, who is attending CITES CoP17, said: “John delivers a straight-talking message and one we can no longer ignore. Despite nearly 30 African Member States calling for a ban on the trade in ivory, despite unprecedented levels of rhino poaching, despite the demise of Cecil and hundreds of lions shot as trophies every single year - there are still those in favour of the ivory trade, who want to legalise rhino horn trade and who reject moves to bring greater controls to trophy hunting. For John, myself, Born Free and many millions of people around the world, this is no laughing matter. These are desperate times and without action the slide towards extinction for some of our most iconic species will continue."