UNITED NATIONS, March 4, Xinhua - Senior UN officials on Wednesday warned that trafficking in wildlife poses a serious security risk and called for a coordinated international response to combat wildlife crime.

At a meeting of the General Assembly commemorating World Wildlife Day, General Assembly President Sam Kutesa said: "We need to strengthen our commitment and enhance cooperation among member states, the United Nations system, NGOs (non-governmental organization) and civil society to curb wildlife crime."

"Estimates indicate that illegal wildlife trade is worth billions of dollars, with organized criminal networks, and even rebel and terrorist groups taking part in the illicit trafficking of wildlife," he said.

"We should do more to promote adequate national legislation, improve intelligence sharing and border controls, strengthen global, regional and national enforcement, improve capabilities to combat poaching and illegal trafficking, among other initiatives," he said.

Those comments were echoed by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who was also at the event.

Focusing on the need to combat wildlife crime, Eliasson said illegal wildlife trade has become "a mushrooming transitional form of crime."

He added that such crimes undermine the rule of law and national security, as well as degrades ecosystems. It represents a contempt and lack of respect for life on this planet, whether it is human beings, animals or plants.

On Dec. 20, 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution designating March 3 for the World Day to coincide with the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement between governments of 176 member states.