By Khephren Fanga
Your Excellency, President of the French Republic,
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government Leaders, Distinguished guests of various ranks and positions,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to open by thanking you for organising this high-level meeting on illegal trade in plants and animals, with a focus on elephant and rhino poaching in Africa.
This initiative is a clear sign of the strength of your commitment to protecting African biodiversity, which is currently facing a threat on one of its most emblematic species, the elephant.
As a reminder, the illegal trade in wildlife products is estimated to be worth around 8 billion euros per year. Intensive, undeclared and unregulated fishing, which particularly affects the western coast of Africa, generates around 7.5 billion euros per year. And what's more, illegal fishing boats are becoming ever more linked with piracy and terrorism.
Add to that the illegal timber trade, which currently racks up around 5 billion euros per year, and we can see that the various criminal networks dealing in wildlife and forestry products generate around 20 billion euros every year. This makes it one of the most highly lucrative criminal networks in the world, alongside the trafficking of drugs, human beings, contraband and weapons.
With rhino horns currently selling at an estimated €45,000/kilo - and up to €360,000 on the black market - and ivory selling at around €1,500/kilo, the poaching of these key species is gaining momentum within organised crime networks.
In Africa, we are starting to see that networks illegally trading in weapons, drugs and human beings are now branching out into wildlife and plants.
The African forest elephant is an emblematic species. It plays a key role in the ecology of our forests by spreading far and wide the seeds of hundreds of important trees, many of which are the source of precious commercial timber. Elephants also increase the fertility of forest soils by spreading minerals, thus encouraging growth, which significantly increases the carbon sequestration potential of these areas.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We find ourselves at a turning point in history.
Over the last 10 years, we have lost almost 76% of our total population of African forest elephants. Even in my own country, Gabon, which has been one of the least affected, we have lost a third of our troop. Despite this, Gabon is still home to more than a half of all surviving forest elephants. More....