Press release

More than half of the UK public believe that rhinos will be extinct in the wild in 30 years

The 'If They're Gone…' campaign will run for a full year and starts with a focus on rhinos. Every three months the focus will switch.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A poll conducted by YouGov and published today has found that 54% of people in the UK do not think that animals like tigers, rhino, and orangutans will exist in the wild in 30 years time.

This shocking statistic comes as Secretary of State Owen Paterson launches the year long ‘If They’re Gone…’ campaign, which has been designed to highlight the threats posed to four iconic endangered species - rhinos, tigers, orangutans and elephants

The campaign, which has been launched at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, involves more than 20 organisations from key wildlife organisations, zoos and safari parks. The campaign will provide more information on the plight of these species and give practical advice on how people’s decisions can help save these majestic animals from extinction.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said:

Today, I am launching a very important campaign. ‘If They’re Gone…’ aims to raise awareness and encourage individuals to take action to protect four of the planet’s most iconic species, rhinos, elephants, orangutans and tigers, from extinction.

I don’t want future generations to think of these species in the same way I think of the Dodo. We must act now.

It’s by working together that we show international leadership in the fight against the disastrous trade in wildlife and devastating impact of deforestation.

Charlie Mayhew, CEO of Tusk Trust said:

On average this year one rhino has been lost to poachers every 11 hours. If this poaching continues to escalate, a species, which has existed on this planet for 40 million years, faces the very real prospect of extinction in our lifetime.  We cannot be the generation that allows this to happen and Tusk is working hard to preserve all endangered species in Africa.

Reggie Heyworth, Owner of Cotswold Wildlife Park

Rhinos are perhaps the iconic species at Cotswold Wildlife Park, and the recovery of the White Rhino population in the 20th Century from near extinction proves that we can save these magnificent animals. We must not let the poachers and the illicit traders win in the 21st Century: Rhinos now are under dreadful pressure but we can make a difference. The tide has been reversed before and we can do it again. We are all diminished as human beings by the poaching of these magnificent animals, and we must all do what we can to save them.

Together all the campaign partners will help to raise awareness and encourage individuals to take action to protect the four species that are being highlighted. As such the campaign calls on the public to:

  • Think before you buy anything that could be made from or contain body parts of endangered species;
  • Ask where products have come from and if they have been produced sustainably;
  • Get involved and support wildlife conservation programmes;
  • Spread the word - tell your friends and family about tigers, rhinos, elephants and orangutans and how important it is to help protect them; and
  • Report any suspicious activity concerning the buying and selling of wildlife products to your local police.

Owen Paterson added:

Together we can all make a difference by finding out if products have been produced sustainably and not buying goods made from illegal body parts or ivory.

There are no medicinal benefits to traditional Asian medicines that contain animal parts and by turning your back on them you can help to protect these iconic animals

The launch of the ‘If They’re Gone…’ campaign coincides with the first day of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference in Bangkok. At this conference Defra is calling for maintaining the ban on ivory sales and to protect rhinos by introducing stricter measures on the export and re-export of rhino horn. Currently it’s estimated there are only 28,000 rhinos left in the wild.

The ‘If They’re Gone…’ campaign will run for a full year and starts with a focus on rhinos. Every three months the focus will switch. A poster competition aimed at primary school children and an extensive programme of activity by all partners will run during different parts of the year. For more information visit the ‘If They’re Gone…’ Facebook page

You Gov Poll - All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,704 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th - 25th February 2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Published 4 March 2013