The world’s rainforests are a central part of our shared human heritage, and on World Rainforest Day, we are reminded that we all have a responsibility to do what we can to preserve them for future generations.
As an animal lover I am deeply concerned about the loss of, and tremendous risks to, biodiversity and animal habitats in rainforests. The human impact upon the fragile rainforest ecosystem can no longer be ignored.
According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) an estimated 1 million species are facing extinction, with deforestation and habitat loss being one of the main drivers of extinction threats.
There are many factors at play in this tragedy including illegal land grabbing, logging, mining, poaching and agricultural expansion. The Amazon rainforest alone has lost over 4000 square miles of forest in 2020 and there are widespread concerns in the scientific community that deforestation could reach a tipping point, resulting in significant habitat loss for many of the world’s most unique species.
It is estimated that rainforests are home to at least 40% of all organisms around the world, and on World Rainforest Day we must commit ourselves to protecting these areas in order to save many of the most at risk species.
The Asian Elephant, found among the tropical forests and grasslands of Southeast Asia, is among those at high risk of being lost forever. This is driven by the twin threats of habitat loss and poaching for the trade in ivory and animal parts.
In Thailand rainforest coverage has declined from 53.5% in 1961 to 31.6% in 2014, and the wider region is a hotbed for the ivory trade – indeed Thailand is still one of the most active markets in the world for ivory which fuels poaching and additional species loss.
Here at home I was proud to play my part and make a stand against the ivory trade by campaigning against trophy hunting and the importation of hunting trophies, and I am even prouder that the Government is standing by its manifesto commitment to ban the importation of trophies from endangered species.
To further protect endangered species such as the elephant, we must protect our rainforests. It is vital that the UK Government follows it’s 25 Year Environmental Plan, in which there is ambitious support for the world’s rainforests through policies that support sustainable agriculture and zero-deforestation supply chains. Since 2013, rules were enacted which mean proof must be provided that imported timber was not harvested illegally, and these kinds of efforts from major economies like ours will help to protect the rainforests of our planet.
The recent Environment Bill (2020) will make it illegal for UK businesses to use agricultural commodities if they have not been produced in line with local laws protecting forests, this will support for example, Brazilian and Thai producers that follow domestic regulations and penalise those who do significant, illegal, damage to these precious ecosystems.
Businesses in the UK will be required to carry out due diligence on their supply chains to show where key commodities - for example, cocoa, rubber, soy and palm oil - come from, or face potential fines. Clearly therefore, we here in the UK are able to act to protect rainforests around the globe.
Yet still, animals in rainforests are facing extinction and more needs to be done at all levels, at the level of Government, on the international stage, as businesses, charities, and individuals I think this is an issue that can unite us all. I encourage everyone to raise awareness, act responsibly and keep fighting for change and I know that we can all do this for the rainforests and those who live there, including the animals – they’re counting on us.