Thursday, 3 May 2012

The London Mayor, butterflies, a Dragon and the WSPA

Can a dragon roar?  Is that possible?  I know they breathe fire and all, but roar?

Sorry, that's not the point.  I'm actually trying to be a bit political.

Today, Londoners go to the polls.  It's election day in the capital to decide who will best steer the city through the next four years.  Although I won't get to vote, I think this is an important event.  The Mayor of London is a prestigious and powerful position.  But should you really care about who gets to sit in this hot seat?  There's only really one answer: YES, you should.  It could affect you in some way.  Yes, really...

London City Hall
City Hall: The Mayor of London's HQ. Image credit

If you live in London, or even if you don't but commute into the city every day for work, then the decisions that the Mayor takes will affect you.  From cycle lanes to policing and flood barriers, the Mayor will touch your life in some way.  Stop shuddering at the thought, it's an inevitable fact.  If you don't live in London, but perhaps you have friends or family who do, you'll obviously want the best for them; access to good, timely healthcare, safe and reliable transport links, that sort of thing.  Even if you don't live in London or have any friends or family in the city, it's been proposed that the role and responsibilities of the London Mayor is echoed in other cities across the country.  Whether you like to admit it or not, the London Mayor is a bit of a trendsetter in that regard.

But, there's something else.  The London Mayor makes decisions that can affect the rest of the country.  You may not think it, but it's true.  And I'm not just talking about the impact of the Olympics in London during August.  Have you heard about the 'butterfly effect'?  The idea is that the tiniest action can cause a major effect elsewhere.  The saying is something along the lines of 'if a butterfly flaps its wings in, say South America, it could cause a hurricane in Texas'.

That's what can happen with the Mayor of London.  For example, if whomever becomes Mayor after today decided not to invest in, oh I don't know, perhaps fighting wildlife crime, then criminals will get away with poaching animals and smuggling and selling animal parts all over the country.

Zoos all over the Britain are beefing up their security to protect their rhinos from poachers who want to break in and saw the horns off these animals to sell on the black market.  I wrote about the extra measures my local zoo had already implemented to protect its rhinos and it's not alone.  Poachers also try to smuggle their wares out of the country any way they can.  One man was caught at Manchester Airport after stealing a rhinoceros horn from Essex.  See, it's not just happening overseas or in London; it can affect the whole country.

And, bear in mind that recent studies suggest the illegal wildlife trade to be valued at between $7 and $10 billion each year with links to drugs cartels, organised crime, and even to terrorism.

The way to stop this from happening is for the Mayor of London to support the Metropolitan Police's Wildlife Crime Unit invest in its future.  Since 1995, the unit has seized over 30,000 endangered species items but the unit's funding has been reduced over the years.  The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has given the team a much needed donation of £100,000 to help them continue their fight against wildlife crime and are calling on whomever becomes Mayor of London after tonight to raise funding levels again and support the work of the unit.

So, what can you do?
WSPA's Cruelty in a Concrete Jungle campaign launched back at the start of March and has gathered pace and support since then.  So far nearly 11,000 people have signed this e-petition, three out of the four main candidates have pledged their support (Boris Johnson is yet to do so) and now a Dragon has added their roar - if indeed a Dragon can roar - to the campaign.

I am of course talking about one of our famous TV 'Dragons'; Deborah Meaden.  Backing this campaign, she said: “With London as a UK and international hub for illegal trade in wildlife, the commitment of the London Mayor to adequate policing is crucial.  Some of the animals that come into our capital dead, or in parts, I have seen recently in the wild where they belong.”

Good ol' Debs is right.  The Mayor of London will wield real power to stop the exploitation of endangered animals here and abroad.  And whether you live in London or not, please consider adding your voice to the WSPA e-petition to put pressure on the London Mayor to support the Wildlife Crime Unit and help stamp out wildlife crime..  You may or may not care who becomes London's Mayor but I urge you to care about this issue.

Thanks for listening x

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