Opening the 3rd annual conference of the Global Wildlife Programme in Pretoria, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy, expressed the “hope that this conference would help to build alliances between the private sector, local communities and international partners to address the pressing issues of conservation and society. We need an approach that integrates communities, socioeconomic development, and wildlife conservation efficiently.”
The appalling outcomes of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which confirmed that species and ecosystems around the world are in rapid decline heightened the global focus.
The Global Assessment and South Africa’s National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) concluded that the species most threatened were terrestrial freshwater and marine vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups. The NBA had noted that 12% of the country’s species are categorised as threatened. Equally important, the NBA emphasised the economic importance of biodiversity employment in Southern Africa finding that 410 000 people are in biodiversity-related employment.
“A major threat to legitimate economic opportunities is the international illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products – the 4th most lucrative form of organized crime in the world and estimated to be worth $23 billion per year.
It threatens local community development and livelihoods, local and national revenue streams, undermines the rule of law, is a threat to the existence of iconic species and compromises local and global security,” said the Minister.
“Wildlife crime also promotes ecological degradation, counteracts conservation efforts and poses a threat to the sustainable development and use of natural resources,” she said.
Wildlife trafficking and the illegal wildlife trade is not purely conservation and environmental management problem, South Africa’s own experience has shown that wildlife crime is often associated with the trafficking of weapons and narcotics.
“These efforts have proven effective in terms of creating jobs in the biodiversity sector and increasing arrests, they require additional help. International trade policy and enforcement experts from around the world agree that more resources are required to fully understand the dynamics of international trafficking syndicates and to deal with them effectively.
“Communities have to be empowered to either benefit from the sustainable use and development of commercial resources within the conservation areas, or be assisted to find alternative livelihoods in line with the fulfilment of their basic human rights,” said Minister Creecy.
Concerning wildlife trafficking, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ Green Scorpions work in tandem with the law enforcement agencies to ensure South Africa’s environmental laws and regulations are not violated, and that those attempting to illegally trade in wildlife species are arrested and successfully convicted.
The Minister welcomed the launch of South Africa’s first project implemented under the banner of the Global Wildlife Programme. This project entitled “Strengthening institutions, information management and monitoring to reduce the rate of illegal wildlife trade in South Africa” runs from 2019 until 2024.
Information from SA Government and Press Portal