Yaya Touré to help save elephants as UNEP goodwill ambassador | inside World Soccer

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Touré has been appointed as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to fight against the slaughter of elephants.

Yaya Touré visits baby elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi
Yaya Touré visits baby elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi

Photo: AP

Africa is now home to an estimated 472,000 elephants, whose survival is threatened by poaching as well as population expansion and increasing urbanisation encroaching on natural habitats.

Poaching has risen sharply in Africa in recent years fuelled by demand from Asia, with elephant tusks used to make ornaments and rhino horns used for traditional medicine.

Criminal networks are responsible for the illegal trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia, and large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia have more than doubled since 2009 and reached an all-time high in 2011.

Ivory trade is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

"Poaching threatens the very existence of the African elephant and if we do not act now, we could be looking at a future in which this iconic species is wiped out," Touré told a press conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

"Ivory Coast's national team is named the Elephants after these magnificent creatures that are so full of power and grace, yet in my country alone there may be as few as 800 individuals left."

The 30-year-old added: "I became a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador to spread the message that this poaching - and other forms of wildlife crime - is not only a betrayal of our responsibility to safeguard threatened species, but a serious threat to the security, political stability, economy, natural resources and cultural heritage of many countries."

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner welcomed the fact that the two-time African Footballer of the Year has joined the campaign against wildlife crime.

He said: "His personal commitment to an environmentally sustainable lifestyle and his global status as an internationally renowned sportsman makes him a particularly powerful African voice to speak and inspire action on the environmental challenges and the solutions to these challenges."