By Kevin Heath
South Africa has spoken out against some of the commitments in the London Declaration against poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife. Of particular concern is the commitment given by those present to end trading in wildlife products and not to undertake sustainable usage of natural resources. The South African government also claim that some of the commitments goes against international binding agreements.
South Africa was not able to attend the London conference in wildlife crime and poaching because the timetable clashed with the State opening of Parliament in South Africa. The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, has today released a statement responding to the Declaration.
While South Africa welcomes some of the proposals put forward by the meeting other aspects of the commitments given goes against South Africa’s stated policy of using its natural resources in a sustainable way. The government is clearly concerned over its plans to submit an application to allow a regulated trade in rhino horn.
Minister Molewa noted and welcomed the following provisions contained in the London Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade:
- Eradication of the demand for illegal wildlife products;
- Establishment of effective global legal frameworks;
- Strengthening of enforcement measures, including the ability to successfully prosecute; and
- The recognition of the importance and significance of sustainable livelihoods and economic development in the conservation of endangered species.
Her concerns though lie in other aspects which would lead to signed up states bringing trade in wildlife products to an end. Her concerns are that the commitments are “in conflict with and undermines decisions reached through legally binding multilateral environmental agreements, including decisions taken at the 16th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).”
Molewa said, “We are fighting against rhino poaching and not against sustainable utilization. Any default policy change leading to non-utilization, done in the name of anti-poaching is clearly problematic as it goes against our principles of sustainable utilisation,”
The statement released today explains, “There was also no prior agreement regarding placing a moratorium on wildlife trade, particularly since the 16th Conference of Parties to CITES in March 2013 did not, for example, extend the moratorium on ivory trade, but re-confirmed the decision that a decision-making mechanism for trade in ivory must be developed for consideration at the 17th CoP to CITES In 2016. With regards to rhino poaching, Parties agreed to take certain steps to fight rhino poaching and all related illegal activities. The Parties to CITES have to report on actions taken at the next Conference of Parties in 2016.”
Molewa also explained that even though discussion between the UK and South Africa before the signing of the Declaration failed to provide a mutually agreeable declaration South Africa would continue to work with Britain and other countries in tackling poaching and illegal wildlife trading.
“Our non-attendance of the conference should not be construed as a decline in the government’s commitment to addressing the scourge of rhino poaching, or an indication of apathy or a move towards isolation on this important issue. The government is addressing the poaching of rhino by unscrupulous poachers nationally and internationally and ensuring that those responsible for the decimation of this iconic species are brought to book,” said the Minister.
“We have been engaging various parties locally and internationally and will continue to do so, as part of our efforts to fight ongoing illicit wildlife trade. We continue to subscribe to multilateralism whilst also working with other parties at bilateral and other levels as part of our multi-pronged strategy involving a number of stakeholders,” Molewa continued.