United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director Achim Steiner released the following statement after the UN General Assembly which adopted its first-ever resolution on wildlife trafficking:
“This General Assembly resolution is an historic step forward, and one I believe will spark the firm and concerted international action needed to combat poaching and those who profit from it.
“In calling for wildlife crime to be treated as a serious crime, both nationally and across borders, the resolution sends a clear signal to organized criminal networks involved in this illicit trafficking that their time will soon be up.
“In particular, I hope this resolution will help curb the rampant poaching of elephants and rhinos, whose slaughter threatens not only the health of the species, but also local ecosystems, communities and livelihoods.”
The UNGA resolution calls on countries to harmonize national legislation and transnational cooperation on the illegal trafficking of wildlife. It also recognizes the links between wildlife crime, international organized crime and the plight of local communities, whose livelihoods are impacted by the illicit trade. Enforcing laws and regulations that protect wildlife both nationally and across borders is a moral obligation, a legal imperative and an economic necessity.
The General Assembly resolution builds on a resolution passed at the first-ever United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in June 2014, which strongly encouraged governments to commit to targeted actions to eradicate supply, transit and demand for illegal wildlife products – a key concern of UNEP’s work with member states . The UNEA resolution promotes zero-tolerance policies and the development of sustainable and alternative livelihoods for communities adversely affected by the illegal trade.
The number of elephants killed in Africa annually is in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 per year, out of a population of 420,000 to 650,000. According to data from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as many as 100,000 elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012.
For forest elephants, the population declined by an estimated 62 per cent between 2002 and 2011. Poached African ivory may represent an end-user street value in Asia of US$165 to US$188 million of raw ivory, in addition to ivory from Asian sources.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) reports that 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone in 2014 – this translates to one rhino killed every eight hours. The involvement of organized syndicates has seen poaching rise from less than 20 in 2007 to over 1,000 in South Africa in 2013, and rhino horn poached in 2014 is valued at an estimated US$63 to US$192 million.