The United Nations estimated that there were 17,000 elephants killed illegally in Africa in 2011 alone. There is an urgent need to raise the profile of the work being done to save these beautiful creatures and initiate programs to stop poaching for ivory.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Africa. Millions squeeze around television sets across the continent to watch local and international games, and soccer players are highly respected. The United Nations Environment Programme decided to appoint a famous soccer star as their Global Goodwill Ambassador. It is hoped that with the appointment of the Ivorian soccer player Yaya Toure, the serious issue of poaching would reach more homes and more communities.
Toure has played in Belgium, the Ukraine, Monaco and Spain, and is currently at Manchester City in the United Kingdom. He also represents his home country of the Ivory Coast. Millions know him for his skills on the soccer field, but few have known about his love of the environment and his passion for his home continent.
In his first press conference in his ambassadorial role in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, he was clear that preserving wildlife is close to his heart. “These animals deserve to live. If you want our sons to see this magnificent animal in the future we have to stop it (elephant poaching).” He said that he wants to do something positive for not just his country, but his continent. His role will be to educate and inform, helping to raise public awareness on environmental issues. He is known and recognised across Africa, so his fame will give him this opportunity.
There is still a lot of work to be done. The elephant population is at risk of extinction in central and West Africa, and the situation is becoming more serious in east Africa with elephant numbers falling daily.
Toure’s plea to stop illegal elephant poaching for our future generations to enjoy, will encourage others to help in the fight to save these wonderful creatures. At the heart of this issue is the demand for ivory across the world, but especially in Asia. Toure warned that the slaughter of elephants for their ivory was threatening their existence and that protecting the elephant population of Africa is now a priority.