Lon­don Dec­la­ra­tion on il­le­gal wildlife trade com­mits to pro­tect en­dan­gered species

InAfrican coun­tries, wildlife has been dec­i­mated dur­ing po­lit­i­cal strug­gles and crim­i­nal gangs en­joy pro­tec­tion from of­fi­cials.

The Sunday Guardian - - World -

The UK For­eign Of­fice hosted a two- day con­fer­ence on il­le­gal wildlife trade ( IWT), ap­pro­pri­ately held in the Evo­lu­tion Cen­tre in Bat­tersea. Many Pres­i­dents and lead­ers from across Africa and South­east Asia, plus del­e­gates and stake­hold­ers from 80 coun­tries at­tended the con­fer­ence. The trade in ele­phant, rhi­noc­eros, big cat, pan­golin, rep­tiles and mul­ti­ple other species of fauna, birds and flora, is worth $ 17 bil­lion-$23 bil­lion. It is the fourth largest or­gan­ised crime sec­tor, dev­as­tat­ing wildlife pop­u­la­tions, na­tional and lo­cal economies, even fu­elling civil con­flict and threat­en­ing na­tional and re­gional se­cu­rity. Speak­ers feared that young chil­dren to­day may only know about ele­phants, gi­raffes, lions and pan­golins from doc­u­men­taries, be­cause they will have be­come ex­tinct in the next 20 years; other species are be­com­ing en­dan­gered ev­ery year.

For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt said, “The World Bank es­ti­mates that govern­ments lose as much as $ 15 bil­lion ev­ery year be­cause of il­le­gal log­ging. And the same crim­i­nal net­works that traf­fic the body parts of wild an­i­mals may also deal in guns and drugs and peo­ple.”

All agreed an in­ter­na­tional re­sponse to poach­ers and smug­glers is needed. This ab­hor­rent crim­i­nal trade crosses bor­ders and is a so­phis­ti­cated transna­tional crime re­quir­ing col­lec­tive ac­tion from busi­nesses, the pri­vate sec­tor, the tech sec­tor, NGOs, CITES ( Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions, sci­en­tists, po­lice forces, game- rangers and an­tipoach­ing rangers, In­ter­pol and jus­tice sys­tems. The con­sen­sus was that penal­ties for the per­pe­tra­tors must be much higher.

In cer­tain African coun­tries, wildlife has been dec­i­mated dur­ing po­lit­i­cal strug­gles and crim­i­nal gangs of­ten en­joy pro­tec­tion from of­fi­cials. Pres­i­dent Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon said that IWT was a crit­i­cal is­sue which had not been taken se­ri­ously enough. He rec­om­mended an in­ter­na­tional bill to al­low joint in­ves­tiga­tive teams to share in­tel­li­gence.

Re­gard­ing the hu­manele­phants con­flict, the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion and pro­vid­ing al­ter­na­tive jobs for lo­cal agrar­ian com­mu­ni­ties was em­pha­sised. Pat Awori, Kenyan conser- va­tion­ist and a cham­pion of ele­phants, ex­plained, “The poverty men­tal­ity keeps peo­ple poor, farm­ers live hand to mouth, more than 60% would ac­cept an al­ter­na­tive life­style to tra­di­tional farm­ing. Kenya needs to have sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture. If Kenya be­comes in­dus­tri­alised why not as­sess land use and plan­ning? Then de­cide where to keep wildlife and gen­er­ate enough money to keep wildlife cor­ri­dors. African na­tions/range states could come to­gether and have range state meet­ings about how they could they sup­port one an­other, pri­ori­tise and mon­i­tor.”

The ne­ces­sity of chang- ing be­hav­iour pat­terns was recog­nised; a re­quire­ment to un­der­stand the driv­ers of il­le­gal use; and for govern­ment- led change­be­haviour cam­paigns to re­duce the de­mand of il­le­gally traded prod­ucts is con­sid­ered an es­sen­tial step.

Zac Gold­smith MP and the govern­ment’s cho­sen “con­fer­ence cham­pion” told Bella Lack, youth am­bas­sador for the Born Free Foun­da­tion, that Zim­babwe, An­gola, Zam­bia, Namibia, Botswana were likely to cre­ate a cor­ri­dor net­work of 50 mil­lion hectares. This would be the world’s largest na­ture re­serve and home to the world’s largest pop­u­la­tion of ele­phants.

United States At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions de­clared that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump would make it im­pos­si­ble for smug­glers to have a safe haven in the US. He said poach­ers/smug­glers would not able to flee from one na­tion to an­other to avoid pros­e­cu­tion. The US has de­ployed 12 wildlife at­tachés in em­bassies around the world. Ses­sions an­nounced that the US would fund $90 mil­lion in counter-wildlife traf­fick­ing pro­grammes and projects in the com­ing year.

Although In­dia has a track record of poach­ing and wildlife traf­fick­ing, this re­porter could not find an In­dian rep­re­sen­ta­tive to talk to at the con­fer­ence.

Fol­low­ing the con­fer­ence, 50 coun­tries have adopted the Lon­don 2018 Dec­la­ra­tion, mak­ing a po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment to take ac­tion to pro­tect en­dan­gered species around the globe and to close mar­kets for il­le­gally traded wildlife. More are ex­pected to sign this land­mark high-level in­ter­na­tional agree­ment in the com­ing days. Peru will host the first re­gional con­fer­ence in Latin Amer­ica fo­cused on IWT in 2019.

Zac Gold­smith with UK trained anti-poach­ing rangers from Malawi

Laos com­mits to a to­tal ban on ivory trade

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