A gathering of world leaders and delegates at a London Conference on illegal wildlife trade came out with harsh resolutions, committing themselves to ‘practical steps’ to stop commercial trade in elephant ivory.
They also renounced the use of ivory products from species threatened with extinction, and termed poaching and wildlife trafficking as "serious crimes" under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and sought strengthened cross-border co-ordination and support for regional wildlife law enforcement networks.
The leaders also agreed to further carry out analysis to better understand the links between wildlife crime and other organized crimes and corruption and how these were linked to terrorism.
In an e-mail to reporters, Mary Rice, executive director of the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency, hailed the conference as a meaningful step in upending what she called the "low-risk-high-profit nature of wildlife crime."
“This has been an unprecedented gathering … the first indication that many of the world's governments are really serious about combating organized wildlife crime," she said.
"Delegates should now go home and convene meetings with chiefs of police and Customs, immediately mobilizing the law enforcement community to gather and analyze intelligence and so work towards dismantling the criminal networks behind the multi-billion dollar illicit wildlife trade," she added.
Currently, wildlife crime is estimated at $19bn, equal to a Tsh30.4 trillion industry per year, behind drug and the illegal arms trade and human trafficking.
Endangered elephants, rhinos and tigers in Africa and elsewhere are being killed at unprecedented rates to fuel a burning market for goods derived from the animals in Asia, the conference observed.
Between 2007 and 2012, rhino poaching in Africa increased by 5,000 per cent, with one rhino being killed every 10 hours, according to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office. "Since 2004 the Central Africa region has lost two-thirds of its elephant population … and last year saw the Western Black Rhino declared extinct," the office said in a statement.
The UK-sponsored conference ostensibly to to stop the illegal trade in rhino horn, tiger parts and elephant tusks -- brought representatives from 46 nations, including Botswana, Chad, China, Gabon, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Vietnam, alongside the United States and Russia.
Conference delegates signed a resolution to take action to "help eradicate the demand for wildlife products, strengthen law enforcement, and support the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by wildlife crime," the statement read.
The London declaration said in part: “We, the representatives of Governments and Regional Economic Integration Organisations, gathered in London on 13th February 2014, recognising the significant scale and detrimental economic, social and environmental consequences of the illegal trade in wildlife, make the following political commitment and call upon the international community to act together to bring this to an end.”
The international framework for action The Future We Want adopted at Rio and endorsed by consensus at the UN General Assembly, “recognizes the economic, social and environmental impacts of illicit trafficking in wildlife, where firm and strengthened action needs to be taken on both the supply and demand sides.”
It also recognizes the “important role of CITES, an intergovernmental agreement that links trade, environment and development interests.
The document also stipulates “the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the illegal wildlife trade … which can only be effectively tackled if we eradicate both the demand and supply sides for illegal products wherever in the world this occurs.
To this end, we commit ourselves and call upon the international community to take the following action, to: “Support … and where appropriate … undertake effectively targeted actions to eradicate demand and supply for illegal wildlife products, including but not limited to, raising awareness and changing behaviour.
Government support is important to ensure demand and supply side reduction efforts are implemented on the scale and in the tie‐frame needed to have a meaningful impact.
Governments should work in partnership with relevant stakeholders, including civil society, sectoral experts and key influencers, including business.
Actions should be scientific and clearly evidence based, building on research into users’ values and behaviour, and form part of coherent demand and supply side reduction strategies.
Endorse the action of governments which have destroyed seized wildlife products being traded illegally; and encourage those Governments that have stockpiles of illegal products, particularly of high value items such as rhino horn or elephant ivory, to destroy them and to carry out policy research on measures which will benefit conservation.
Independent audits, or other means of ensuring transparent management, should be carried out prior to destruction.
Renounce, as part of any government procurement or related activity, the use of products from species threatened with extinction, except for the purposes of bona fide scientific research, law enforcement, public education and other non‐commercial purposes in line with national approaches and legislation.
Take measures to ensure that the private sector acts responsibly, to source legally any wildlife products used within their sectors; and urge the private sector to adopt zero tolerance policies on corporate gifting or accepting of species threatened with extiction or products made from them.
And, recognizing the authority of the CITES Conference of the Parties, supports the existing provisions of CITES prohibiting commercial international trade in elephant ivory until the CITES Conference of the Parties determines, informed by scientific analysis, that the survival of elephants in the wild is no longer threatened by poaching.
Meanwhile, President Jakaya Kikwe claims that the poaching network was too big and cumbersome to dismantle, and argued that it needed both local and international efforts.
Speaking during a special programme broadcast on BBC Swahili Service in London yesterday the president said the poachers were not only operating within the borders of Tanzania but beyond the country’s boundaries.
The president says Tanzania security organs had since recently managed to arrest 40 ivory dealers in Northern Tanzania, describing some of them as big tycoons with business roots out of the country working with local business icons and said poaching was a business of the rich but our readers complain: who is complaining?
The president also made public that the government now knows the ring-leader of ivory trade in the country, but fell short of identifying this man running everyone of us mad, claiming this would weaken his strategic war waged against poachers.