Protecting Wildlife from Illegal Trade: A Sustainable Development Issue
The 2015 XIV World Forestry Congress, celebrated in Durban (South Africa) from September 7 to 11, 2015 included a series of talks – the Tree Talks – to discuss important issues in global forests and environmental governance. As part of the series, John Scanlon, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), discussed the role of the Convention and the nature of the problems of illegal wildlife trade, raising awareness about the need for coordinated and decisive action to protect plants and animals threatened by extinction.
CITES, Scanlon explained, was created in 1973 to establish trade controls for species already threatened – for which trade is strictly prohibited – or that could be threatened, establishing mechanisms to make their trade operations legal, sustainable and informed to the Secretariat. Using the examples of species such as the African cherry, the queen conch and the vicuña, CITES Secretary-General explained how the Convention works with other organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) to regulate trade transactions of different species in a way that guarantees sustainable development and the sustainable use, protects the rights of local and indigenous people, promotes national security and prevents other associated environmental effects such as climate change. At the end, Scanlon argued, not preventing illegal wildlife trade will lead to the undermining of governance and the rule of law, and will deny local communities the right to use their natural resources in a sustainable way, seriously impacting national security.
Today more than ever, Scanlon concluded, “there is a potential for unregulated trade to wipe out species.” Population growth, and more sophisticated communications and transportation infrastructures facilitate the work of the criminal gangs involved in illegal wildlife trade. In a business that currently generates up to $20 billion per year, military enforcement should be working with local communities to strengthen wildlife protection. Security is necessary to control illegal traffic, but it is also a prerequisite to promote community initiatives. Furthermore, the role of inter-governmental organizations in establishing measures, efforts and governance mechanisms is essential to protect plants and animals species. Combatting wildlife crime, Scanlon added, is in all of our hands, and our decisions as consumers and as citizens will be essential in protecting our biodiversity.
For the complete Tree Talk click here.