The Department of Environmental Affairs has cautioned that the wildlife crime is not only threatening natural resources, but also the economy through financial burdens and the loss of economic and development opportunities.

This years World Wildlife Day puts the world’s big cats under the global spotlight for the very first time.

Across the world, lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars, as well as many other big cat species, are under pressure due to poaching, lost habitats and disappearing prey.

The department of environmental affairs celebrated the day by campaigning at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Gauteng.

The World Wildlife Day is aimed at turning the world’s attention to the role that is being played by all people in the protection of wildlife and their habitat.

“As a country richly endowed with natural resources, South Africa is not immune to these challenges with criminal syndicates targeting iconic species, such as the cycad, rhino, elephant and lion, as well as species not often considered as being under threat – birds, tortoises and reptiles, including lizards and snakes,” says the department on a statement.

Illegal wildlife trafficking is the fourth most lucrative global crime after drugs, human trafficking and arms.

This years theme focused mainly on the threat that faces our big cats.

The lion species is the highest income generator in terms of trophy hunting by foreigners.

Wild African lions are at the risk of extinction by the year 2020.

Currently, the department says it is working with ‘World Wildlife Fund (WWF-SA) on a project to increase their ability to tackle wildlife trafficking in South Africa.