Illegal wildlife trade is worth $15-$20bn globally making it the fourth largest international trade crime ©PA Images
Illegal wildlife trade is worth $15-$20bn globally making it the fourth largest international trade crime ©PA Images

Action across value chain needed to tackle wildlife crime

18 April 2017

International organisations need to work together across the entire value chain if they are to prevent poaching and illegal harvesting, WWF has said.

Disparate organisations are tackling different aspects of the illegal wildlife trade but preventing these crimes “will only be possible through coordinated action across the value chain between source, transit and consumer countries”, it said.

WWF used today's celebration of World Heritage Day to highlight a report calling on UNESCO to coordinate with the Convention on the Illegal Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

UNESCO's World Heritage Convention mandates it to protect and preserve areas of natural or cultural importance and part of the convention focuses on preventing poaching and illegal harvesting of species in and around World Heritage sites.

WWF said it should work more closely with CITES, which works with countries on a national level to address the sourcing, transit and consumption of illegal wildlife goods. WWF said together the two bodies could cover the whole of the illegal value chain.

Illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest international trade crime and is globally worth $15-$20bn annually, according to the WWF. Poaching and illegal harvesting occurs in 45% of UNESCO natural World Heritage sites, with elephant poaching taking place in more than 60% of sites and rhino and tiger poaching in 70% of sites where they are found.

Wildlife crime persists despite a number of countries taking action. Last year Kenya burned what it claimed to be the world’s largest hoard of ivory and China has pledged to ban all domestic trading and processing of ivory by the end of this year in an attempt to quell demand.

Not every country is moving in the same direction however. A South African court recently re-legalised its domestic trade in rhino horn.

“Even the wildlife living in places which should benefit from the highest levels of protection are suffering at the hands of criminals,” said Chris Gee, head of campaigns at WWF UK. “Not only does this threaten the survival of species, but it’s also jeopardising the future heritage of these precious places and the people whose livelihoods depend on them.”

Increasing protection around heritage sites can make poaching harder, the report said, but criminals would continue to find “new, potentially more dangerous and damaging ways” to do so if demand made it financially attractive. CITES' involvement would help identify trade routes and consumer markets. 

Corruption across the value chain also needs to be eradicated, WWF said. “A more systematic approach is needed that surmounts national borders and simultaneously addresses all steps in the value chain.”

John Scanlon, CITES secretary general, said better implementing the CITES convention would “provide security to people and places, and support national economies and the rural communities that depend on these sites for their livelihoods”. “This report provides a range of options to further enhance coordination between CITES and the World Heritage Convention,” he said.

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