LONDON, United-Kingdom, February 14, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Illegal Wildlife Conference, held today in London, has agreed key actions to stamp out the illegal wildlife trade.
During the conference, chaired by Foreign Secretary William Hague and attended by the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, world leaders from over forty nations vowed to help save iconic species from the brink of extinction.
The London Declaration contains commitments for practical steps to end the illegal trade in rhino horn, tiger parts and elephant tusks that fuels criminal activity worth over $19 billion each year. The trade also undermines economic opportunity in developing countries, and threatens the survival of entire species.
Key states, including Botswana, Chad, China, Gabon, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Vietnam, alongside the United States and Russia, have signed up to actions that will help eradicate the demand for wildlife products, strengthen law enforcement, and support the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by wildlife crime.
• support for continuing the existing international ban on commercial trade in elephant ivory;
• renouncing the use of products within governments from species threatened with extinction;
• amending legislation to make poaching and wildlife trafficking “serious crimes” under the terms of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime;
• strengthening cross-border co-ordination and support for regional wildlife law enforcement networks;
• further analysis to better understand the links between wildlife crime and other organised crime and corruption, and to explore links to terrorism.
The conference heard first-hand from the Presidents of Botswana, Chad, Gabon and Tanzania, and the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, who announced the proposal of an Elephant Protection Initiative to secure new funding from private and public sources for the implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan.
The plan includes commitment to an extended moratorium on ivory sales, as well as plans to put ivory stocks beyond economic use. The UK Government announced it would provide support to help the Initiative get up and running.
The London Declaration, and the Elephant Poaching Initiative, come at a crucial time as demand for illegal wildlife products has risen sharply in the last decade.
Rhino poaching increased 5000% between 2007 and 2012, with one killed by a poacher every ten hours. 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 lives of those working hard to protect endangered wildlife are also at risk, with at least 1,000 park rangers killed over the last decade alone. This in turn fuels a cycle of instability, affecting poverty levels as well as regional and international security.
Botswana has now announced that it will host a further Conference in early 2015 to review progress against the commitments made in the London Declaration.