By Mbongeni Mguni
(Bloomberg) -- Botswana will push for 30 countries attending an Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference Wednesday to commit to publishing their ivory stockpiles and opening them for audit, the southern African nation’s environment minister said.
Corruption and a lack of political will to take action remain the biggest obstacles to effective steps against illegal trade in wildlife, Tshekedi Khama said in an interview. He spoke before the start of the conference in Kasane, a town near Botswana’s borders with Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
“We have a lot of countries who are saying what they are doing about illegal wildlife trade, but what we don’t have is the proof of that,” Khama said. “When we say we are not going to allow the sale of ivory, we need to be able to say let’s agree to count the stockpile and audit it.”
Poaching of African elephants for ivory is worth $165 million to $188 million a year when the products are sold in Asia, while the trade in rhino horns was valued at $63 million to $192 million last year, figures from the United Nations Congress on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora show. The value of crime involving wildlife and illegal logging is estimated by the UN to be $8 billion to $10 billion a year.
The publication and audit of ivory stockpiles is among 14 urgent measures adopted by 30 countries at a 2013 African Elephant Summit held in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital. Nine countries, including the U.K., the U.S., Germany, Uganda and Botswana signed a declaration at the time.
China, Swaziland, Zambia and Angola were among countries that gave an update on their progress in protecting elephants during a follow-up meeting held in Botswana this week, Khama said.
China last year worked with 28 countries and international organizations, seizing illegally traded wildlife and capturing criminals, Meng Xianlin, director general of the country’s Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Import and Export Management Office, said at Wednesday’s conference. China has strengthened law enforcement and committed $10 million for African wildlife conservation, Meng said.
Nations attending the Kasane meeting spent almost six hours Tuesday negotiating “consensus resolutions” that will be considered at a closed session, Botswana’s Khama said.
“We want to see more action and less talk as well as more from the leadership,” Khama said. “We need to see more commitment from the top, saying they buy into what is being done here.”
Botswana President Ian Khama said the country had resolved to prevent any of the nation’s animals from becoming extinct. “Well-resourced organized crime groups and militias are taking advantage of weakness in legislation, institutional inadequacies and civil unrest” to supply demand for wildlife products, he said at the conference.
Botswana has deployed its army, police and intelligence services to support a Department of Wildlife unit in the battle against poaching, he said.