ZSL's Senior Policy Advisor, Katherine Secoy, blogs about the promising outcomes of a major conference on illegal wildlife trade.
I arrived at the impressive Kurhaus Hotel in The Hague on Monday night with my colleague Paul De Ornellas, both of us looking forward to three days of intense discussions at the Save Wildlife (Act now or Game Over) Conference.
Hundreds of delegates at the meeting, which was hosted by the Netherlands government as they take over the EU presidency, worked together to craft action plans to save some of the world’s most iconic animals from the threats posed by the illegal wildlife trade (IWT).
Tackling this trade is a particular focus for ZSL, and we threw ourselves into working with partners on five of the 14 ‘Wildlife Deals’ that emerged over the three days. There was a great collaborative atmosphere at the meeting and an encouraging willingness to discuss concrete actions.
ZSL is already working on innovative solutions to the poaching crisis in Kenya, and so we were delighted to be part of the group working to scale up existing community-based interventions across Kenya’s community conservancies – including the Kenyan Wildlife Service, Ministry of the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities, Kenyan Wildlife Conservancies Association, Big Life Foundation and Soralo.
We will also be partnering with TRAFFIC and the IUCN on a programme to reduce the demand for pangolin products that is threatening the future of wild populations across Africa and Asia, joining a coalition led by the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement on a wildlife crime analytical toolkit to better target wildlife trafficking on the ground, putting in place a global network of demand reduction experts with Traffic and IUCN alongside 40 other participants, and developing a community ‘Venture Capital’ Fund with IUCN, WILD Programme and African Parks.
During the final day of the conference – World Wildlife Day, 3rd March 2016 – some key announcements were made, including by Rory Stewart, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs in the UK, who announced funding for 15 new projects under Defra's IWT Challenge Fund as well as a continuation of funding for future rounds. ZSL was delighted to be one of the recipients, with a grant of £372,427 to combat IWT in Cameroon through improved law enforcement and community empowerment.
In addition, EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella, Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries launched the EU’s Wildlife Action Plan to increase the EU’s commitment to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, and Rwanda announced that as part of the rehabilitation of their national parks network they will be reintroducing the nationally extinct black rhino to Akagera National Park, in partnership with African Parks and the Dutch government.
And to close on a high note; South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs (and Chair of the next CITES 17th Conference of the Parties being held in Johannesburg this September) Edna Molewa announced a decline in rhino poaching numbers from 1,215 in 2014 to 1,175 in 2015. A step in the right direction and shows that we can reverse the tide if the right actions are taken.
As we journey home Paul and I are greatly heartened by all the positive energy and great ideas. We, and everyone else at ZSL, will be pulling out all the stops to turn the plans into reality in 2016 and beyond!
- Learn more about ZSL's projects to combat illegal wildlife trade.
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