By Neo Sefhera
Ambassador Mitchell Gavin of the United States has called for more concerted efforts to combat poaching and warned that poaching threatens the revenue that African countries earn from tourism.
When officially opening a workshop on Wildlife Poaching and Trafficking in Southern Africa, Ambassador Gavin said wildlife trafficking had now become an issue of economic development, health, rule of law and national security. In the case of Botswana, she said, statistics provided a measure of what was at stake.
“In 2012, ecotourism generated P8 billion in revenue and supported almost 50 000 jobs in Botswana. By 2022, tourism related revenues in Botswana are projected to almost double to P15 billion. But that will happen only if the country’s rich biodiversity is preserved,” she said.
Ambassador Gavin said Africa’s iconic animal populations were being decimated by well-armed, well organised and increasingly sophisticated networks of poachers who exploit porous borders and weak institutions to profit from trade in illegally taken wildlife.
She said wildlife trafficking also posed a public health risk as approximately 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases such as SARS, avian influenza and the ebola virus were of animal origin.
“Militants groups such as al-Shabab, the Janjaweed and the Lord’s Resistance Army have turned to illegal ivory trafficking to purchase weapons that they use to sow terror and instability,” she said.
Ambassador Gavin said the very act of wildlife trafficking erodes the rule of law and undermines the capacity of the state to control and protect its borders. More....