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Keeping it Wild Trainee Dexter attends #iwill4nature campaign launch

Posted: Wednesday 6th February 2019 by

Youth ambassadors at the #iwill4nature campaign launch

As a trainee on the Heritage Lottery funded Keeping it Wild project, I was invited to attend the #iwill4nature campaign launch at ZSL London Zoo which was preceded by a Youth Voice Workshop ran by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered species). Both events were strongly focused on engaging the next generation of conservationists and were attended by a diverse group of young people from across London and beyond.


#iwill4nature campaign launch

#iwill aims to embed social action into the lives of young people in the UK and in doing so create a 'double benefit', to society and to young people as individuals. Organisations across the country have been invited to make a pledge of support towards the campaign objectives. This has inspired commitment from a broad range of sources with over 750 pledges, including London Wildlife Trust. As part of the government Year of Green Action 2019, #iwill is running the #iwill4nature campaign to help boost environmental youth social action.

HRH the Prince of Wales, a patron of the campaign, gave the opening speech via a video link. He spoke of the amazing work already achieved by #iwill, including the placement of young people in volunteering roles within the NHS. He went on to discuss the potential mental health and wellbeing benefits that young people can experience when exposed to the natural environment.

Next up was the Environment Secretary, the Rt Hon Michael Gove. He stressed the sudden and devastating consequences of climate change on biodiversity in the UK, citing the 90% reduction in wildflowers as a key example. He challenged the government, organisations and individual young people to be able to look back on this Year of Green Action 2019 and be able to say “I made a difference”.

Talks were also given by young ambassadors of the #iwill4nature campaign, budding environmentalists between the ages of 10-18, all with a voracious passion for the natural environment. It was great to meet some of the people who are going to be sitting on the Keeping it Wild Youth Forum, they were all really inspiring and from a range of backgrounds. I think the Forum and the #iwill4nature campaign will be an effective tool for young people to help shape conservation policy. I was delighted to see that young people are being given genuine leadership positions and an opportunity to be heard by policy makers!


CITES Youth Voice Workshop

Before the #iwill event all attendees were invited to join a workshop organised by CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). I had limited knowledge of the trade in endangered species aside from the 'charismatic mega fauna' i.e. tigers and elephants that dominate this topic in the mainstream media. Upon entering the lecture theatre where the workshop was being held, we were greeted by the somewhat arresting site of taxidermy tiger heads and elephant tusks that had been seized by the police or border forces.

I was shocked to find out that, trade in endangered species is actually the fourth most lucrative crime in the world, worth an estimated £17Bn a year. Here in the UK many trafficked animals end up in or pass through our borders. Sadly, badger culling is still practiced in the UK and as a nation we have a taste for endangered species of fish, most obviously the cod that goes into our fish and chips. 

Cites aim is that ‘No animal or plant should become extinct due to trade’. By moving towards more sustainable, well managed hunting and fishing methods, it may be possible to find a solution that works for animals and humans across the globe. The CITES World Wildlife Day is taking place on 3rd March and will be focussed on the theme of marine animals.

Image credits: #iwill, Ellie Marshall 

Notes: #iwill is a UK-wide campaign that aims to make social action part of life for as many 10 to 20 year-olds as possible by the year 2020. Step Up To Serve is the charity that coordinates the collective effort of the #iwill campaign by connecting campaign partners, communicating the stories and impact of quality social action and challenging partners to do more.

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