Up to £5 million of UK Government funding will made available to initiatives around the world to help tackle the trade in rhino horn, elephant ivory and other illegal wildlife products.
At an event held at ZSL London Zoo, Defra Minister Rory Stewart announced round two of the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) Challenge Fund.
The IWT is a serious criminal industry worth more than £6 billion a year, and threatens some of the world’s most iconic species with extinction.
ZSL is working with governments and communities around the world to try and address the threat, and just last month ZSL conservationists assisted with the arrest of two leopard poachers in Cameroon. The poachers were in possession of a fresh leopard skin when the arrest was made. Whilst the leopard is a wide ranging and adaptable big cat, its population status is highly variable across much of its former range, and the leopards of the forests of West and Central Africa in particular face massive threats. Despite full protection in Cameroon the leopard has vanished from much of the country and its status where it remains is uncertain. Thus each remaining individual is important and efforts to combat the illegal trade that threatens them crucial to secure a future for this elusive cat.
Round Two of the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund will support practical action against wildlife crime by strengthening law enforcement, reducing demand for illegal products and by helping communities develop sustainable conservation schemes.
Defra Minister Rory Stewart said:
“The illegal trade in animal products is putting some of our most iconic species like elephants, rhinos and tigers in severe danger. This is not just an environmental challenge: tackling this trade means tackling corruption, strengthening security and improving livelihoods.
“This funding will help to reduce the supply of illegal wildlife products by supporting local communities to find new ways of earning a living and stopping poachers and criminal networks from controlling this barbaric trade. It will also support action to reduce demand for these products.”
Jonathan Baillie, Conservation Director at ZSL, said:
“The 2014 London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade greatly escalated political will to address this crisis, but greater effort is needed on the ground if we are to stop the needless slaughter of iconic species such as elephants, rhino and pangolins.
“ZSL and the conservation community greatly welcome Defra’s Illegal Wildlife Challenge Fund, which will provide essential resources to help curb demand, sustainable livelihoods to communities effected by illegal wildlife trade and help to strengthen the criminal justice system and enforcement on the ground.''
Four ways ZSL is helping the fight against the Illegal Wildlife Trade:
- Dja conservation complex, Cameroon: we’re working with government to protect the Dja conservation complex, home to elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees. We are involved in training and equipping eco-guards to help tackle illegal wildlife activity in the complex.
- Pangolins: we’re involved in international efforts to ensure the long-term survival of pangolins, the world’s only scaly mammals, which are illegally poached due to demand for their meat, scales and other body parts.
- United for Wildlife (UfW): ZSL is one of seven conservation organisations in this initiative set up by The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. UfW is fighting the illegal wildlife trade and raising awareness of the issue.
- Instant Detect: ZSL developed this camera trap system that uses satellite technology so images can be sent in real-time from virtually anywhere in the world. It is being used to help tackle poaching of endangered species by providing an early warning system for rangers.