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Illegal Wildlife Trading: The Global Response

Illegal Wildlife Trading: The Global Response

by Fiona Gordon
July 23, 2014

At the closing session of the inaugural United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi last month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “We need to act decisively to change humanity’s relationship with our planet.”

The Ministerial dialogue at the UNEA on illegal trade in wildlife highlighted the multi-dimensional nature of the illegal wildlife trade, including links to security, development and the fight against international organized crime. Also noted was that these issues can only be effectively tackled through unified efforts of the international community.

A statement by New Zealand at the UNEA acknowledges the illegal wildlife trade as a transnational crime and that efforts are needed along the entire trade chain – from range states, to transit nations and countries that are the final destinations and markets. It concludes, “to that end, we look forward to working with all partners, and together ensuring the long-term survival of our planet’s species in the wild.”

As the highest-level United Nations (UN) body ever convened on the environment, the UNEA presents a ground-breaking platform for leadership on global environmental policy. The resolutions from the UNEA regarding illegal wildlife trade encourage governments to implement their commitments, including through targeted actions to eradicate supply, transit and demand for illegal wildlife products.

The sentiment of these resolutions was echoed in an unprecedented Open Letter, from prominent New Zealanders and world-renowned conservationists and international conservation agencies, delivered to the New Zealand Government last week. The signatories urge Rt Hon John Key to fully consider a ban on all ivory trading and to destroy the confiscated ivory held by the Crown.

New Zealand signatory to the letter Dr Gareth Morgan, said that “The priority is to get rid of demand for the ivory that poachers bring to market. One way to help raise the awareness amongst the public is for governments to send strong reminders of the consequences for wildlife.” Morgan explains, “actions such as crushing confiscated illegal ivory remind us that the people of civilized nations do not want to be party to this sordid trade”.

Signatory Born Free states that, “After working for decades to protect Africa’s elephants from the bloody ivory trade, Born Free representatives have now witnessed the destruction of confiscated, stockpiled ivory in Kenya, France, and the United States. We believe that all nations with ivory stockpiles – including New Zealand – should destroy them immediately, reinforcing the global call to have ivory removed from the international marketplace altogether.”

Born Free explains, “this important action would then give New Zealand a vital public platform from which to advocate elephant protection policies, and object to any call for a resumption of commercial trade in ivory,” adding that “with between 35,000 and 50,000 elephants thought to be slaughtered annually to satisfy the illicit ivory trade, there is no time to waste and every voice for elephants must be heard”.

New Zealand signatory Sir Stephen Tindall says, "I see the devastation of wildlife species as one of the world's biggest man made blunders which is being driven for all the wrong reasons”. Tindall considers, “surely if enough of us stand up for these beautiful creatures Governments and Authorities around the world will legislate and police these actions to bring them to a halt!"

New Zealand signatory Bob Kerridge says, “Only by uniting globally can we ever hope to see an end to the barbaric practice of the ivory trade and the likely extinction of the iconic African elephant. Their mutilated bodies haunt me and give me good reason to add my voice in condemnation.” Kerridge emphasizes that, “although New Zealand’s voice in the International arena may be small, our feelings over the needless slaughter of these beautiful animals is heartfelt and intense and must be heard.”

Signatory Richard Bonham, Co Founder and Director of Operations Big Life Foundation, refers to the impacts of the poaching crisis on people, saying, "each day thousands of rangers across Africa risk their lives in defence of elephants. Many die. So that someone can wear an ivory bangle? By banning the ivory trade, governments have an opportunity to help these men and women; experience has shown that there is no room for a legal ivory trade.”

Bonham believes, “The support of each global actor, no matter the scope of their ivory trade, buoys our spirits on the ground. The war against elephant poaching is not one that can be fought forever, and we will not win it without international support.”

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) says, “For a species loved the world over, it is truly shameful that one elephant is killed every 15 minutes for their tusks.” The DSWT rescues elephants orphaned by poaching and frequently witnesses grossly dismembered elephant carcasses. As a signatory to the letter the DSWT explains, “the illegal ivory trade is of global concern, and that is why we support efforts in New Zealand to implement a ban on all ivory trade.”

Other signatories to the open letter include Patron of the Born Free Foundation Rachel Hunter, world-renowned conservationists Dr. Iain-Douglas Hamilton and Dr. Jane Goodall, and internationally respected conservation agencies. A global spotlight is now firmly set on the decision of the Select Committee on 24th July, regarding the petition of Auckland teacher Ms Virginia Woolf requesting a complete ban on the ivory trade in New Zealand.

1) VIEW THE OPEN LETTER here: http://issuu.com/fionagordon/docs/open_letter_to_nz_government_17th_j
2) Support the call for NZ ivory trade ban and confiscated ivory crush here: http://www.march4elephantsandrhinos.org/#!take-action-email-nz/c14dn and here: https://www.facebook.com/events/732610440129544/

ENDS

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