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New York: Illegal wildlife trade undermines rule of law, degrades ecosystems and severely hampers the efforts of rural communities striving to sustainably manage their natural resources, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday as the intergovernmental organisation marked World Wildlife Day.


"Combatting this crime is not only essential for conservation efforts and sustainable development; it will contribute to achieving peace and security in troubled regions where conflicts are fuelled by these illegal activities," said the UN secretary general in a message.

"Getting serious about wildlife crime means enrolling the support of all sections of society involved in the production and consumption of wildlife products, which are widely used as medicines, food, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and accessories," he added.

World Wildlife Day - observed annually, with this year's theme 'It's time to get serious about wildlife crime' - was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2013 for March 3, the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

According to the UN, as many as 100,000 African elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012. For forest elephants, the population declined by an estimated 62 percent between 2002 and 2011. In Asia, poached African ivory may represent an end-user street value of $165 to $188 million.

According to new figures released on Tuesday, elephant poaching rates remained virtually unchanged in 2014 compared to 2013, and still exceeded natural elephant population growth rates, meaning a continued decline in elephant numbers overall is likely.

According to CITIES, 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone in 2014 - this translates to one rhino killed every eight hours. Approximately 94 percent of rhino poaching takes place in South Africa, which has the largest remaining populations and rhino horn poached in 2014 is valued at an estimated $63-$192 million.

The illicit trafficking in live great apes is an increasingly serious threat to chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos in Africa and orangutans in Asia, with seizures averaging 1.3 per week since 2014. It is estimated that a minimum of 220 chimpanzees, 106 orangutans, 33 bonobos, and 15 gorillas have been lost from the wild over the last 14 months, according to the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

In his remarks, CITS Secretary General John Scanlon said: "Illegal wildlife trade is threatening the survival of some of our most charismatic species, as well as some plants and animals you may have never heard of. And it threatens people, their livelihoods, their safety and security."

"The situation is serious," he warned, urging the international community to tackle the poaching, transport and consumption of illegally traded wildlife and in so doing use the same sorts of enforcement tools, techniques and penalties used to combat other serious crimes, such as trafficking in drugs or people.

Indeed, once an emerging threat, wildlife and forest crime has transformed into one of the largest transnational organised criminal activities alongside drug trafficking, arms, and trafficking in human beings. Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues.

"Wildlife crime is a transnational organised crime generating billions of dollars and undermining development. It is also an inter-generational crime that can permanently scar the world through the loss of some of our most beautiful creatures. To stop this, we must act now," said Yury Fedotov, executive director for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is launching new initiatives to halt the illegal trade in wildlife in Asia and Africa. These initiatives will tackle wildlife crime by focussing on law enforcement, regulations, and engaging the private sector and strengthening collaboration between governments within and across the two regions.

"World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate wildlife, but it is also a wake-up call to get serious about wildlife crime. We must all do more to halt the illegal trade in wildlife. UNDP and its partners are committed to this task," UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said.

World Wildlife Day was marked by events around the world. In New York, the Central Park Zoo featured a high-level expert panel discussion on the links between wildlife trafficking, organised crime and sustainable development. Other observances were held around the world in Cairo, Lima, Nairobi, Seoul, Vienna, Geneva, Berlin and Sao Paulo.

 

China bans ivory imports for 1 year as tusk smuggling threatens existence of African elephants.

China is banning the import of ivory products for one year amid criticism that its citizens' huge appetite for ivory is threatening the existence of African elephants.

The State Administration of Forestry declared the ban in a public notice issued Thursday, in which it said the administration would not handle any import request. The ban takes effect immediately.

In an explanatory news report, an unnamed forestry official told the state-run Legal Evening News that authorities hope the ban would be a concrete step to reduce the demand for African tusks and protect wild elephants. The official says the temporary ban would allow authorities to evaluate its effect on elephant protection before authorities can take further, more effective steps.

China is the world's largest importer of smuggled tusks.

The government also has warned its citizens not to bring back any ivory, but critics say the public awareness campaign is inadequate as many Chinese do not know that tusks can only obtained by killing the elephant.

After China acquired a legal stockpile of ivory in 2008, demand for ivory has surged among increasingly affluent Chinese who see ivory as a status-defining luxury, and high profits have fueled a strong underground market for the product.

 

Gaborone - The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, the Honourable Tshekedi Khama, says the latest wildlife census shows that Government’s efforts against poaching were bearing fruit.

Speaking at the handing over of the Elephant census report, Minister Khama said while other countries in the region had been assisted by international donors, 99.9% of Botswana’s efforts against poaching were funded by the government. He said the government’s decision to ban hunting was the right decision as certain species were declining.

In July to October 2014, Elephants Without Borders (EWB) in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) undertook an aerial survey counting elephants and other wildlife in the northern part of the country, he said. It was part of the GEC which was fully sponsored by Mr. Paul Allen and his sister, Jody.
For his part, EWB director, Dr Michael Chase said the total elephant estimate in the northern part of Botswana was over 129,000, the largest population in Africa. He said the elephant population in Chobe appeared to be decreasing while in Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan national parks it grew at a rate of 15% per year. “Many of the changes in the local elephant population are due to movement of elephants between different parts of Botswana and surrounding countries,” he said.

Dr Chase said during the survey, they saw 18 elephant carcasses but that none appeared to have been killed by poachers. He said this showed improvement as the 2010 EWB survey showed that 20 per cent of the fresh elephant carcasses were attributed to poaching. The survey indicated that there were about 48,000 zebras, 26,000 buffaloes, 9,000 giraffes, 57,000 lechwe, 9,000 hippos and over 72,000 impalas. The survey showed a decline of between 7 to 10% for wildebeest, tsessebe and springbok. Ostrich are also declining by 9% annually in the northern part of Botswana, he said.

Source (BOPA)