Posted on 06 November 2015
New approach is major step forward in fight against illegal wildlife trade
Facing an unprecedented poaching crisis, southern African states have adopted the first ever region-wide strategy to tackle wildlife crime at a Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministerial meeting in Botswana.
The comprehensive Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching Strategy (LEAP) 2016-2021
was endorsed by Ministers of Environment from the SADC member states and signals the start of a more concerted and coordinated approach to stopping the poaching and trafficking of illegal wildlife products.
“WWF commends Southern African leaders for adopting this sweeping new strategy, which demonstrates how committed they are to halting poaching in the region,” said Frederick Kumah, WWF African Regional Director. “This strategy will provide a huge boost to efforts to stamp out wildlife crime, which threatens not only numerous species but also security and sustainable development in the region.”
The wide-ranging strategy focuses on five priority issues – strengthening legislation and judicial processes, minimising wildlife crime and illegal wildlife trade, enhancing community engagement in natural resource management, promoting sustainable trade and use of natural resources, and improving field protection.
The strategy urges every member state to create a task force to coordinate wildlife-related law enforcement and anti-poaching issues at the national level. But critically it also outlines a collective approach to wildlife conservation and protection in the region, and establishes a SADC Wildlife Crime Prevention and Coordination Unit to coordinate the efforts of the national task forces.
“The catastrophic collapse in Tanzania’s elephant population and ever worsening rhino poaching in South Africa show how urgently countries need to unite behind this new strategy,” said Elisabeth McLellan, WWF Head, Wildlife Crime Initiative
. “It has been too easy for poachers and traffickers in southern Africa until now, but this strategy should make it far harder for them to plunder the region’s wildlife.”
The scale of the current poaching crisis is underlined by the 60 percent drop in elephant numbers in Tanzania in just five years, while Mozambique lost half its elephant population in the same period. The latest figures from South Africa show rhino poaching heading for another record. Thousands of other animals are being illegally killed each year to meet demand for their products across the region and across the ocean in Asia.
“This strategy is a great step forward but it will only prove to be a real turning point if it is implemented quickly and effectively region-wide,” said Kumah. “There have been some encouraging signs recently with significant seizures of illegal wildlife products and the arrest of previously untouchable kingpins: this new collective approach will help to maintain the momentum and transform the fight against organised wildlife criminals.”
The SADC strategy follows July’s historic UN General Assembly resolution against wildlife crime, which all SADC member states endorsed – as well as the Kasane International Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in Botswana in February.
The SADC Strategy was developed in cooperation with and supported by GIZ, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development BMZ, and was facilitated by WWF.