QUOTE: The ‘Gang of Eight’ was required to take urgent measures to contain global poaching and wildlife trafficking within a year.
Kenya in UN crosshairs over illicit ivory trade
Eight countries had earlier been given a one-year ultimatum to contain global poaching and wildlife trafficking
By TNLM Correspondent
Kenya is among the so-called ‘Gang of Eight’ countries whose United Nations (UN) July 2014 deadline is finally here for reviewing efforts to fight poaching and international illegal wildlife trade.
It was among countries at the risk of unspecified international sanctions after it had been put on notice by the 16th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand. The gang was required to take urgent measures to contain global poaching and wildlife trafficking within a year.
All members of the gang, comprising primary source, transit and destination countries of global concern with regard to wildlife crime, submitted their national ivory action plans to the CITES Secretariat within the May 2013 deadline.
Other members of the gang include China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Uganda, Tanzania and Vietnam.
The 65th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee will be held on July 7-11, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland to review the plans and discuss next steps to stop illegal ivory trade, including whether additional countries should develop similar plans.
The Committee will also consider the roll-out of a wide-range of enforcement related decisions taken by CITES on other species pressured by illegal trade, including rhinos, Asian big cats, rosewood, pangolins, freshwater turtles and tortoises, great apes and snakes as well as a study of the legal and illegal trade in wild cheetahs.
The March 2013 CITES meeting showed that the world was prepared to work together to ensure the survival of the African Elephant. The conference delegates spoke with one voice on the need to stop the alarming trends in poaching and smuggling.
CITES parties recognized the need for targeted and time-bound actions along the entire illegal ivory trade chain – from range and transit States to final destination, and to tackle both supply and demand.
Yet, barely two weeks ahead of the review, CITES Secretariat has released a report showing that over 20,000 African elephants were poached across the continent in 2013. The report notes that overall poaching numbers were lower in 2013 than in 2012 and 2011.
Kenya has since passed a new wildlife law that has stiff penalties for poachers and wildlife traffickers. The government has also set up an anti-poaching crack unit comprising Administration Police, General Service Unit and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). The Director of Public Prosecutions has set up a fully-fledged Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit to provide prosecutorial services for wildlife-related offences.
Officers drawn from the unit are also part of a team reviewing the new law on wildlife and are, expected to propose suitable amendments to facilitate its efficient application.
How well these efforts are working is a different matter altogether given that within the last six months, Kenya has lost 97 elephants and 20 rhinos, compared to 302 and 59 rhinos in the whole of 2013.
The national action plans were requested by the CITES Standing Committee as a response to the dramatic rise in the number of elephants poached for their ivory.
Each plan specifies activities in the areas of legislation and regulations, national and international enforcement, outreach and public awareness.
“Full implementation of the landmark decisions that CITES member States adopted by consensus last March to combat wildlife crime, together with the complementary decisions taken by the CITES Standing Committee, is key to winning the fight against illegal wildlife trade. The CITES Secretariat will continue to support CITES Parties in their efforts and to rally further political and financial support to assist them with on-the-ground implementation,” said John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General.
The Secretariat shared the plans with the Standing Committee and has been working closely with the countries concerned in monitoring their implementation, which might have involved missions on site.
At this month’s meeting, the Secretariat will provide the Standing Committee with its evaluation of the activities conducted by each country, and recommend potential further measures to intensify efforts in critical areas.
The Bangkok deliberations also identified two additional groups of countries that need to adopt measures in the near future.
The first group (Cameroon, Congo, the DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mozambique and Nigeria) was required to develop and start implementing similar National Ivory Action Plans in the course of this year.
Second, the Secretariat was instructed to seek clarification from Angola, Cambodia, Japan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on how they control trade in ivory.
The illegal killing of large numbers of elephants for their ivory is increasingly involving organized crime and, in some cases, well-armed rebel militias. Unknown amounts of poached ivory are believed to be exchanged against money, weapons and ammunition to support conflicts in several African countries.
Significant poaching incidents have recently occurred in Cameroon (Bouba N’Djida National Park), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Garamba National Park) and the Central African Republic (Dzanga-Ndoki National Park).
The CITES Secretariat has also informed its partners in the International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) of the imminent threat to elephants in the Central African Republic (Dzanga-Ndoki National Park) and requested each one to reach out and inform their various networks.
Poaching levels have increased in all African sub-regions, with central Africa continuing to display the highest levels of illegal killing in any sub-region in Africa or Asia. Wildlife rangers who are serving in the front line are often quite literally being outgunned.
Wildlife crime has become a serious threat to the security, political stability, economy, natural resources and cultural heritage of many countries. The extent of the response required to address this threat effectively is often beyond the sole remit of environmental or wildlife law enforcement agencies, or even of one country or region alone.
A year after the conclusion of CITES conference of parties (CoP)16, all is not lost. For instance, the world has witnessed significantly enhanced and effective measures taken across range, transit and destination States – such as through the excellent results achieved by law enforcement officers from 28 countries during Operation COBRA II, a month-long global operation to combat illegal wildlife trade in February.
Further, both in the lead-up to CITES CoP16, and subsequently, the world has seen political commitments made, often at the highest political level, to increase efforts to combat wildlife crime more effectively, and often with a focus on the illegal ivory trade.
Notable among such commitments was the February international conference, hosted by the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) and the British Royal Family at which high-level representatives adopted the London Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade by acclamation.
The two-day February conference brought high-level representatives from 46 countries and 11 international organizations together in London to inject further high-level political commitment into efforts to tackle wildlife crime.
UK Foreign Secretary, Mr William Hague declared at the opening of the Conference: “It is no exaggeration to say that we are facing an unprecedented crisis: tens of thousands of elephants were killed last year; over a thousand rhinos lost their lives to poaching and trafficking; and tigers and many other species are under ever greater threat. But this is not just an environmental crisis. This is now a global criminal industry, ranked alongside drugs, arms and people trafficking.”
Despite considerable efforts to combat wildlife crime, it continues to be a major problem worldwide. The poaching of African elephants and the illegal trade in their ivory is one of the most noticeable and destructive forms of wildlife crime. It is not only having a devastating impact on the African elephant, but it also poses a threat to people and their livelihoods – as well as national economies and in some cases national and regional security.
The enhanced collective effort to combat illegal wildlife trade – both at international and national level – is clear evidence that illegal elephant ivory trade is increasingly being recognized by States as a serious crime, which now carries a much higher risk of detection, prosecution and conviction in a growing number of countries – with higher penalties, including fines, imprisonment and the confiscation of assets being imposed.
“We are seeing better law enforcement and demand reduction efforts across multiple countries, as well as greater political and public attention to this unfolding crisis and CITEs decisions and compliance processes underpin global effort,” said Scanlon.
It is through such strengthened and sustained collective efforts that we will be able to reverse the current disturbing trends in the poaching and smuggling of the African elephant, and combat other wildlife crimes much more effectively.
With 180 Member States, CITES remains one of the world’s most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora. Thousands of species are internationally traded and used by people in their daily lives for food, housing, health care, ecotourism, cosmetics or fashion.
CITES regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment. The CITES permit system seeks to ensure that international trade in listed species is sustainable, legal and traceable.
CITES was adopted in Washington D.C. on March 3, 1973. The First World Wildlife Day was celebrated on 3 March 2014, which coincides with the signing of the Convention.