Wildlife crime cannot be effectively addressed without partnerships at international, national and community level.
Opening the 3rd annual conference of the Global Wildlife Programme in Pretoria, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy, expressed the hope that this conference would help to build alliances between the private sector, local communities and international partners to address the pressing issues of conservation and society.
“Through this conference, we hope to build alliances between the private sector, local communities and international partners. We need an approach that integrates communities, socioeconomic development, and wildlife conservation in a practical manner,” she said.
The conference is taking place at a time when global attention on issues of wildlife has been heightened by the shocking outcomes of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which confirmed that species and ecosystems around the world are in rapid decline. The Global Assessment and South Africa’s National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) concluded that the species most threatened were terrestrial freshwater and marine vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups. The NBA had noted that 12% of the country’s species are categorised as threatened. Equally important, the NBA emphasised the economic importance of biodiversity employment in Southern Africa finding that 410 000 people are in biodiversity related employment.
Minister Creecy said a major threat to legitimate economic opportunities is the international illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products – the 4th most lucrative form of organized crime in the world and estimated to be worth $23 billion per year.
“It threatens local community development and livelihoods, local and national revenue streams, undermines the rule of law, is a threat to the existence of iconic species and compromises local and global security,” said the Minister.
She pointed out that the poaching of charismatic species, such as elephant and rhinoceros, prevents sustainable rural development since it reduces the tourism potential of natural habitats.
“Wildlife crime also promotes ecological degradation, counteracts conservation efforts and poses a threat to the sustainable development and use of natural resources,” she said.
Wildlife trafficking and the illegal wildlife trade is not purely a conservation and environmental management problem, but constitute a highly sophisticated form of serious transnational organised crime that is a threat to national security. South Africa’s own experience has shown that wildlife crime is often associated with trafficking of weapons and narcotics.
To date, interventions aimed at ending the poaching crisis have focused first and foremost on sustaining rural economies and livelihoods and secondly on protecting animals from extinction as well as protecting biodiversity.
The Minister said though these efforts have proven effective in terms of creating jobs in the biodiversity sector and increasing arrests, they require additional help. International trade policy and enforcement experts from around the world agree that more resources are required to fully understand the dynamics of international trafficking syndicates and to deal with them effectively.
The implementation of the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy, government’s 14-year plan to optimise the economic potential of the wildlife and bioprospecting sectors in South Africa. The plan provides communities with a range of wildlife-based livelihood options that include tourism, game management, environmental awareness and protection, game ranching and bioprospecting.
“Communities have to be empowered to either benefit from the sustainable use and development of commercial resources within the conservation areas, or be assisted to find alternative livelihoods in line with the fulfilment of their basic human rights,” said Minister Creecy.
NBES has set an industry growth goal of 10% per anum until 2030.
With regard to wildlife trafficking, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ Green Scorpions work in tandem with the law enforcement agencies to ensure South Africa’s environmental laws and regulations are not violated, and that those attempting to illegally trade in wildlife species are arrested and successfully convicted.
This work is supported through international collaboration aimed at strengthening efforts to address not only rhino poaching, but illegal wildlife trade in general. It is internationally acknowledged that illegal wildlife trade results in devastating impacts on species, ecosystems, sustainable livelihoods, economies, and national and regional security.
A key element of South Africa’s strategy to combat wildlife crime is partnerships, said the Minister, emphasising that it is not possible for government, or the country, to respond to the scourge of wildlife crime alone.
“We require cooperation with our neighbouring countries and the global community. Partnerships play an important role nationally and internationally in awareness-raising and partnership development with communities living around national parks, and enhancing consultation with the private sector in an attempt to standardise practices and procedures, including enhanced security measures,” she said.
Minister Creecy welcomed the launch of South Africa’s first project implemented under the banner of the Global Wildlife Programme. This project entitled “Strengthening institutions, information management and monitoring to reduce the rate of illegal wildlife trade in South Africa” runs from 2019 until 2024. The Global Environment Facility has provided a $4.9 million grant for the project. An additional $7 million in co-financing has been committed by the South African government, World Wide Fund for nature (WWF-South Africa), and Peace Parks Foundation. The project is also supported by the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the Secretariat for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Besides strengthening institutional and information management, the project includes the development of a ready-to-use CITES e-permitting system, as well as strengthening community governance mechanisms for sustainable livelihoods and community illegal wildlife trade monitoring. Under in this project, South Africa will develop participatory natural resource management practices and enterprise-based sustainable livelihoods for local communities surrounding the Kruger National Park.
South Africa is preparing for a new US $13.4 million project in collaboration with UNEP and the World Bank to promote the biodiversity economy and combat illegal wildlife trade (IWT).
The 2019 conference is a joint effort by the Government of South Africa, World Bank, UNEP, and other GWP partners to promote knowledge sharing and collaboration amongst national projects.
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