By Rhishja Cota-Larson
In 2013, horrifying headlines about the voiceless victims of wildlife trafficking captured public attention around the world. Has a turning point in the war on wildlife crime finally arrived?
Make no mistake: This is not a fight that will one day be “won” so we can all go home. Rather, it is an ongoing state of vigilance for law enforcement, activists, NGOs, environmental journalists and concerned citizens. Nevertheless, we need to recognize — and celebrate — our progress.
I’ve been writing about wildlife trafficking for nearly five years and I think there is something different about 2013. World leaders have publicly committed to tackling the illegal wildlife trade and there seems to be a consensus that this scourge is nothing less than transnational organized crime which — and it should be dealt with accordingly. Wildlife trafficking breeds corruption in governments and encourages greed in the private sector. It threatens regional security and funds global terrorism.
So, what happened in 2013?
Experts agree that demand for wildlife products must be reduced. It can be said that from almost every corner of the world, demand reduction was a unifying battle cry for 2013.
John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), writes that CoP16 was a “watershed moment” for combating wildlife crime.
“In addition to addressing enforcement, there was a clear recognition by CITES Parties that we need to reduce demand for illegal and untraceable products and to enhance overall public awareness of the severe damage caused by unregulated and illegal trade.”
The Clinton Global Initiative launched “Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants”, a coalition of non-governmental organizations brought together to “directly target the chief drivers” of ivory trafficking.
This commitment takes a triple pronged approach by dedicating funding to: “stop the killing,” “stop the trafficking,” and “stop the demand.”
A post on the ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking) blog notes that as part of NGO Education for Nature-Vietnam’s demand reduction campaign, banners discouraging consumption of wildlife were hung at nearly 30 markets in major Vietnamese cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Da Nang. More....