By Justus Wanzala
NAIROBI (IDN) – African and Asian countries face a huge challenge in protecting their wildlife from the illegal killing and trafficking that has already endangered some species.
Over the years, national and regional efforts to combat the threat have met with mixed success and wildlife and their products continue to be sold in many countries around the world.
Figures released in March 2017 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) under its Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme showed that by 2016 the trend in poaching of African elephants – which had increased steadily since 2006, peaking in 2011– had been halted and stabilised. Nevertheless, the levels of illegal killing still remained unacceptably high overall.
Against this backdrop, the European Union (EU) has committed itself to investing 30 million euro (35.3 million U.S. dollars) to counter the illegal killing and trafficking of wildlife in Southern and Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean, in an initiative that brings together the European Union and CITES, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
As part of the 30 million euro intervention, on December 5, the EU signed a 17.2 million euro (20.35 million U.S. dollars) agreement with CITES, UNODC and CMS on the sidelines of the United Nations Environment Assembly held in Nairobi on December 4-6.
The funding is meant to strengthen wildlife law enforcement, management and transboundary governance to protect wildlife by tackling illegal killing and trafficking of wildlife and their products. The new cross-regional wildlife programme will focus on the regions’ most important protected areas, national transit points and in some African countries’ most important transboundary ecosystems.
Stefano Dejak, the EU ambassador to Kenya, said the funds will support a control programme targeting seaports and other ports to curb trafficking in wildlife products. The programme will also assist countries in establishing appropriate laws to address wildlife trafficking.
Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, noted that governments are responding with zeal to tackle the menace.
He said the EU recognises the role of local organisations in the fight against poaching and as result they will be included in the funding scheme. “Local communities are key partners in curbing the illegal killing of wildlife and tracking of their products,” he observed.
He added that there have also been efforts to address corruption because “without fighting corruption no success can be achieved.”
Through its MIKE programme, CITES will lead the implementation of activities to reduce the illegal killing of wildlife, including wildlife conservation initiatives in a number of priority protected areas located in critical transboundary ecosystems throughout Eastern and Southern Africa, ranging from Kenya to Namibia.
The MIKE programme is a site-based system designed to monitor trends in levels of illegal killing of elephants in large sample sites spread across the range of Asian and African elephants. There are 60 MIKE sites in Africa representing 30-40 percent of the continental elephant population.
At the national and regional level, UNODC will lead activities aimed at reducing the international trafficking of wildlife products and improving criminal justice responses. It will also enhance criminal justice capacities under its Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime (GP).
CMS will focus on developing and strengthening governance and collaborative management mechanisms for some of the regions’ most important transboundary conservation areas.
Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), said that as the world moves towards 2030, providing technical assistance to UN member states as they strive to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a challenge of scale.
“Goal 15 is no exception and the European Union, with its generous financial contribution, is helping ensure that the children of Africa will be able to witness the magnificent diversity its land has to offer,” she pointed out.
Zewde noted the need for urgency in protecting and preserving wildlife, saying that through the collaboration of the different UN agencies working in partnership much ground will be covered “because wildlife trafficking is a transboundary issue.”
She said it is high time that the criminal activities of poachers and wildlife products traffickers are tackled. “This is tall order but so are the stakes. Success in this area will not only benefit Africa but also the world.”
According to CITES Secretary General John Scanlon, the new initiative will contribute to the enhancement of current work and expansion of support to those are serving on the front line to stop the illegal killing of Africa’s wildlife. “It also strengthens the links between CITES and CMS, the world’s wildlife conventions, in a highly effective manner and draws upon the expertise of UNODC and our other International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) partners.”
Javier Montano, Regional Coordinator for UNODC’s Wildlife and Forest Crime programme, said the comprehensive approach of the programme brings systemic change and enhancement of criminal justice responses to wildlife crime in the regions concerned.
Kenya’s Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu said there has been a perception that Kenya was the epicentre of the poaching menace but it has since been noticed that the East African country is a key transit point. “Genetic tests from some of the ivory we intercepted indicated Angolan origin.”
Wakhungu said that in addition to the newly signed agreement which is set to boost the country’s efforts in surveillance at point of entry, Kenya has a modern laboratory that is playing a crucial role fighting poaching and trafficking of wildlife products.
Coincidentally, the signing occurred a day after the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), a state agency charged with protecting wildlife, acquired a digital radio system to improve its efficiency in surveillance of wildlife in the country. The technology was acquired though a French government loan of seven million dollars to the Kenya government to help improve communication among security personnel in wildlife conservation areas.
Among other features, the system can transmit data as well as provide GPS tracking and will revitalise wildlife protection and management by KWS. [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 December 2017]
Photo: EU and UN officials flanked by Kenya’s Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu (first from the right among the seated officials) during the signing of Euro 17.2 million from the EU to fund initiatives to combat wildlife killing and trafficking in Africa. Credit: Justus Wanzala | IDN-INPS.
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