Progress and Broken Promises at Illegal Wildlife Trade Meeting
While highlighting some important progress in the fight against illegal wildlife trade, a high-level government meeting in Botswana will most likely be remembered by the broken promises of almost half of the countries who just 13 months ago committed themselves to a global effort to end the scourge.
The Kasane Conference on The Illegal Wildlife Trade, a follow up meeting to the February 2014 London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, presented a progress report in which 15 of the 41 countries which signed onto last year’s London Declaration provided no evidence to show they were delivering on their commitments.
“It is appalling that countries like Chad, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo, with elephant populations under extreme threat from poaching for their ivory, can’t show any headway whatsoever in slowing the slaughter,” said Jason Bell, Director of the IFAW Elephant Programme.
“On the more positive side the progress reports from most signatories show a much more concerned effort to tackle illegal wildlife trade through international and national law enforcement capacity building operations; the destruction and removal from any possible of use of seized items such as ivory stockpiles in countries like Chad, Belgium, China and, as recently as last week, Ethiopia; and governments allocating significant funds into campaigns against illegal wildlife trade,” said Bell.
Bell said IFAW welcomed the recognition by governments of the role of non-governmental organizations in helping bring about behavior change, gathering vital intelligence for law enforcement agencies and sharing their expertise to train law enforcers.
“The report highlights various examples of where NGOs have contributed, including a conference hosted by Ethiopia and facilitated by IFAW where nine countries gathered to address issues experienced while fighting illegal wildlife trade and trafficking; the launch of the iThink awareness campaign in China of which IFAW is a member; and such endeavours as INTERPOL Operation Worthy where IFAW is involved; not to mention the acknowledgement of the need to tackle wildlife cybercrime,” said Bell.
The IFAW report, Wanted – Dead or Alive, Exposing Online Wildlife Trade documented a 2014 investigation into Internet trade in wildlife and wildlife products, which found over 33,000 endangered animals and wildlife products available for sale across 280 online marketplaces in 16 countries over a six week period. Information gained from the investigation was passed onto the law enforcement authorities for investigation,” said Bell.
Overall, IFAW believes much more needs to be done to ensure that wildlife crime is treated as serious and organized crime.
“As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks among damaging and dangerous global crimes such as trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting,” said Bell.
“Countries that say they have a commitment to fighting the scourge of wildlife crime need to step up to the plate and be seen to honour their promises. Otherwise important forums such as Kasane Conference are nothing more than talk shops.”
The 2013 IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal wildlife trade poses to elephants, rhinos and people.
To combat this deadly illegal trade, IFAW trains law enforcement officers – more than 2,600 to date -- in wildlife trafficking prevention in source, transit and consumer countries throughout the world. The organization collaborates with INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Program, regional law enforcement bodies and national wildlife law enforcement agencies.
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com.