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London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade a success

This has been quite the week for those folks that work to end illegal hunting and illegal trade in wildlife. As you may already be aware, the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade ended successfully yesterday. At this unprecedented event the Heads of State, Ministers and high level representatives of 46 countries endorsed the London Declaration which commits them to undertaking “decisive and urgent action” to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

Diceros bicornis Black rhinoceros Under 24 hour armed guard due to risk of poaching Africa © Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon

Diceros bicornis Black rhinoceros Under 24 hour armed guard due to risk of poaching Africa © Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon

The Conference was opened by UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, sitting next to HRH Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry. Mr. Hague declared that “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.”

Customs officials in Suvarnabhumi discover a shipment of African elephant tusks from Mozambique. Suvarnabhumi is a major hub for both wildlife and drug trafficking, Thailand. © WWF-Canon / James Morgan

Customs officials in Suvarnabhumi discover a shipment of African elephant tusks from Mozambique. Suvarnabhumi is a major hub for both wildlife and drug trafficking, Thailand. © WWF-Canon / James Morgan

HRH Prince Charles told delegates: “Today you are breaking new ground by coming together and committing – at high levels never before seen at a conference on this topic – to take urgent action to put a stop to this illicit trade, which has become a grave threat not only to the wildlife and the people who protect them, but also to the security of nations.”

Measures agreed-to in the declaration include actions to eradicate the market for illegal wildlife products; agreement to strengthen law enforcement efforts and ensure that effective legal frameworks and deterrents are in place; and moves to promote sustainable livelihoods through positive engagement with local communities.

The agreement was also endorsed by 11 international organizations, including many WWF partners, such as the CITES Secretariat, UNODC, Interpol, WCO and the World Bank.

Canada was represented at the Conference by the Honourable John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs who has pledged $2 million in emergency funding support to combat wildlife trafficking in Eastern Africa. According to Foreign Affairs, these funds help will build the capacity of the Kenyan Wildlife Service to combat international wildlife trafficking.

While this Declaration is not a legally-binding document, it is a high-level political statement of intent and includes within it a menu of key actions that governments have publicly committed to doing. This global and high-level political attention should catalyze national-level actions in both the countries that attended the conference, and those that didn’t.

The Declaration covers a very ambitious and comprehensive scope of work and the challenge for WWF and TRAFFIC now is to see how we can assist these countries to implement the bold commitments they have made and translate them to action on the ground. There is a lot to do by 2015, when Botswana has offered to host another high-level meeting to review progress since this Conference.