LONDON, 12 October 2018 - Global leaders have acknowledged the need to take urgent collective action to combat the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) at the the fourth global conference on IWT. This now needs to be matched by action.
Hosted by the UK government in London, the conference emphasised the need to tackle IWT as a serious organised crime, work collaboratively with new partners, and redouble efforts to reduce demand. The essential role of local communities also emerged strongly as a unifying theme.
WWF welcomes the renewed commitments to stamp out IWT, but calls on governments to now turn these commitments into concrete action as well committing to protect the landscapes on which the species threatened by IWT depend.
Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF-UK, said:
“Time is running out for too many of our iconic species, including elephants and tigers. We must act now to halt this serious organised crime, once and for all. All participants must be held to account to the commitments that have been made. Crucially, we also have to act to protect the habitats around the world that wildlife and people need. If we are serious about restoring nature, then we will need a new global deal for nature in 2020.”
Estimated to be worth more than £15 billion a year, the illegal trade in wildlife is devastating some of the world’s most precious animals such as pangolins and plants such as rosewood. Around 55 African elephants are killed a day, driven by poaching for their ivory.
The conference saw a number of actors recognise the importance of tackling the financial crimes linked to the illegal wildlife trade, and identifying the beneficiaries of these crimes. One the eve of the conference, 28 global financial institutions signed the Mansion House Declaration as part of United for Wildlife’s Financial Taskforce meeting, committing to collectively put in place effective mechanisms to identify and address suspicious transactions.
Rob Parry-Jones, Lead of WWF’s Wildlife Crime Initiative, said:
“Too often the illegal wildlife trade is seen as simply an environmental issue. Not only is this a misunderstanding of the nature of the trade, it also limits the entry points for effective enforcement interventions. If we are to stop this devastating trade, we must recognise that it is serious transnational organised crime, facilitated by corruption and financial crime.
“It is encouraging to see a strong focus on the global criminal networks behind wildlife trafficking. The commitments we have seen coming from global financial institutions in the Mansion House Declaration to combat financial crimes linked to wildlife trade are a welcome and necessary step. We look forward now to seeing public and private sector partnerships strengthened to turn these commitments into action.”
Strong legal and policy frameworks, and strong institutions are essential, not just for an enforcement response, but also to enable local communities to properly negotiate and obtain tangible benefits from nature. Key to success in addressing wildlife crime will be connecting the strands of enforcement, local communities, incentives, human rights and aspirations, enforcement, anti-corruption, financial crime, and demand reduction.
Ahead of the conference, WWF published a survey of wildlife rangers’ working conditions, revealing that preventable diseases such as malaria, a lack of access to clean drinking water and to the most basic of supplies, are undermining rangers’ effort to protect iconic species.
Commenting on the survey, Rohit Singh, WWF’s Zero Poaching Lead, said:“Rangers are nature’s first line in defence against wildlife traffickers. Yet our survey - the largest ever conducted - has revealed a shocking lack in access to basic healthcare, equipment and training.
“We expect countries to take this issue extremely seriously. They must urgently review these shortcomings that are endangering the lives of rangers and as a result, nature and wildlife.”