Tackling Illegal Wildlife Trade Together

They say the British are mad about animals. Perhaps, but we certainly are about wildlife, which is why I’m pleased to see the UK at the heart of an international drive to combat the illegal trade in wildlife – a significant environmental problem, threatening biodiversity and ecosystems across the globe.  This is much more than an ‘environmental’ issue for the specialists – it should concern us all; this trade threatens communities directly as it drives corruption, strengthens criminal groups and undermines the stability of already fragile states.  It also threatens the livelihoods of communities who depend on certain species, and the ecosystems they support.
For these reasons the UK government will be hosting The London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade on 13 February.  Endorsed and in the presence of the Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary William Hague, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, the conference will bring together global leaders to help eradicate illegal wildlife trade, and better protect the world’s most iconic species from extinction.  
The trade is also a serious criminal industry, worth billions of dollars every year.  And there is a risk that insurgent or terrorist groups could benefit from the trade.  For example, we know that fragile states can offer criminal and extremist groups ungoverned space in which to operate and tackling helps cut off a possible source of funding to these groups.  The effects of all this matters to the UK, as it does to the UAE, and the globe over.
To solve it, we need to reduce and remove demand for products, interdict transit and help range states choke off supply. That is why the UK government is seeking political commitment from the highest level. Countries who have been invited, including the UAE, are those most affected by the illegal wildlife trade, whether as range, transit or consumer states. 
The Conference aims to tackle three interlinked aspects of the Illegal Wildlife Trade: improving law enforcement and the role of the criminal justice system; reducing demand for wildlife products; and supporting the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by the trade.
There will be a particular focus on Elephants, Rhinos and Tigers. These three iconic species are the primary targets of organised criminal activity and are facing unprecedented levels of poaching.  Action is vital for ecosystem protection, but perhaps more importantly, their iconic status shows us the seriousness of the issue; if we can’t save these species, what chance do others have?  We have already seen the extinction of the Western Black Rhino in Africa this year, which is a complete tragedy. We must work together to ensure it is the last extinction amongst these great animals.
It’s an emotive issue but we must be absolutely clear that it is not insoluble. The solutions are there but only if we join forces and ensure a system that works. From improved law enforcement to working with local communities there is plenty of work to do, and the UK is keen to get started with its global partners.
As signatory to the Convention on International Trade in endangered Species (CITES) since 1990, I know this is a key issue for the UAE.  The country has been active in building national capacity to protect some of the world’s rarest species from trafficking.  For example bodies such as Dubai Customs have engaged in the bespoke training of customs officers to combat the illegal trade at entry points. And the first ever Arabic species identification manual was used in the UAE.  It is also its telling that the International Fund for Animal Welfare has its Middle East headquarters in Dubai. 
On the UK side we are working closely with a number of organisations and NGOs such as the Princes Trust Sustainability Unit, the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, and United for Wildlife.  The London Conference will not duplicate the initiatives already underway by these organisations or the UN to tackle the trade but rather it will build on them, ensuring that they have the necessary high level endorsement.  It will look at the range of consequences: for the environment, for efforts to tackle crime and instability and for the communities directly affected by the trade.
The illegal wildlife trade is truly a global moral wrong, threatening the world’s most vulnerable societies and threatening our most iconic species with extinction. Our values do not allow us to stand by and do nothing.  I and many others will be watching closely for agreements in London this Thursday, but more importantly, for global commitment and robust collaboration going forward.

2 Responses

  1. Ruth Glasgow says:

    Being signatories to the CITES agreement means nothing here, until the country’s (shall we say) social and ruling elite start paying attention to it, and following it themselves. How many times have I seen lion cubs, tiger cubs and monkeys being paraded up and down the Beach Road here in Dubai in expensive cars? How many ‘private’ zoos do we have here full of big cats? Many of these big cats are declawed and sometimes have their teeth removed ‘just in case’. Go down to Sharjah Animal souk and you will see snow leopards and rare foxes. Dubai Zoo and Sharjah Wildlife Park are packed to the gills with confiscated animals which were brought into the UAE despite the CITES agreement. Britain can talk all they like about the illegal wildlife trade, but the driving force and implementation for this needs to come from the UAE, and it needs to come from the ‘top’.

  2. Ingo-Steven Wais says:

    Dear Dominic , it ‘s certainly much better to be “mad” ’bout animals and esp. wildlife – as to ignore it or just too don ‘t mentioned it all. For – and I do full agree to yr. statement – such a “behaviour” is the reason for increasing problems in re . of environment problems plus all these sensitive ecosystems ‘cross the world. And surely not undermines the stability of already fragile nations but also their moral . NOT the one of the ordinary people but too often the one of criminals ( “…terrorists groups could benefit…”). So it ‘s in my opinion a big challenge but also a big chance for the UK, the UAE or the EU to find the best possible way of how to fight against this illegal, disgusting wildlife trade. Well, during the last years I ‘ve given it up to have too much expections on conferences of several kinds. But by reading yr. report twice I do have a lot of hope that this days” LONDON CONFERENCE about iillegal…” will born sooner or later their fruits and “robust” , worldwide co – operation . To conclude : Thanks a lot for all those infos ’bout the UAE ‘s key – issues since 1990. Esp. this so-called CITES. Best wishes, liebe Grüßle, Ingo-Steven

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