Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bo Derek Helping Raise Awareness in Canada

Curbing demand key to battling illegal trade of wildlife parts: Bo Derek


Published Tuesday June 5th, 2007

Actress and model Bo Derek provided some star power Tuesday at the Canadian launch of an awareness campaign to combat the illegal trade of wildlife parts, joining Toronto Mayor David Miller at city hall to encourage consumers to stop buying products that exploit endangered species.


The 50-year-old Californian, best known for her role in the 1979 movie "10," said the only way to save threatened species is by reducing international demand for their parts.


"I don't think this is a problem that we can solve only though enforcement, through laws and through politics," she said. "I honestly believe we must reduce demand, and that involves the individual."


She said that every year, thousands of endangered species are killed for their skins, ivory, fins and other body parts.


"So many tourists go overseas, they have no idea what they are buying are the cause of an animal's suffering and the extinction of an animal," Derek said.


She praised Canada for being a leader in preserving wildlife, noting the country recently joined an international coalition against wildlife trafficking, and Ontario's legislation to protect endangered species.


But she said Canadians are still among those who travel to foreign countries and often buy products containing parts from endangered species, likely unaware the animals may have been poached.


"The blood of these animals is on our hands, more than even the poachers," Derek said. "If we didn't demand the products, there would be even less of a market to supply to."


Miller said Toronto's multicultural population can help the cause.


"Most of us have connections with family and friends around the world," he said. "And I believe that by drawing attention to this issue of the trade in illegal animal products in Toronto, we can make a very significant difference in the consumption worldwide."


The Active Conservation Awareness Campaign launched Tuesday has already been operating in the United States and Asia for several years.


"I recently learned that China was the No. 1 consumer of endangered species, and the U.S is No. 2," Derek said. "I think it's shameful."


WildAid, the non-profit organization launching the campaign, has been running a number of public service announcements across Asia, and has recruited the help of international celebrities to get its message across.


"I can't go to China and tell them to stop the trade of animal parts, but Jackie Chan can get that message across," Derek said.


The commercial campaign in Asia is seen by close to an estimated billion people a week and is slowly changing public opinion, said Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid.


"It's all about staying aware and not being involved in the trade," Knights said. "We're finding the more we educate people, the more they change the choices they make."



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