Heads of state, ministers and high-level representatives of over 30 countries and Regional Economic Integration Organisations have adopted the Kasane Statement to reaffirm their commitment to ending the illegal wildlife trade. The statement was adopted at the Kasane Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, held on 25 March in Botswana and organised by the Government of Botswana with the support of the UK government.
The conference was a follow up meeting to the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife, held in February 2014 and organised by the UK government. At the London Conference, a Declaration was signed by participating countries (and Regional Economic Integration Organisations) through which they make a political commitment to counter illegal wildlife trade.
The Kasane Statement includes additional actions considered crucial to ending illegal wildlife trade, including measures to: eradicate the market for illegal wildlife products; ensure effective legal frameworks and deterrents are in place; strengthen law enforcement, and engage communities in efforts to address illegal wildlife trade.
In particular, IUCN welcomes the focus on local community engagement. Last month IUCN convened an international symposium, organised by its CEESP/SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group and partners, which examined insights and best practice from a wide range of case studies, and developed a set of key insights and recommendations for policy and practice which engage communities in combating the illegal wildlife trade.
“IUCN commends this conference and the adoption of the Kasane Statement, because it not only addresses law enforcement and demands reduction as solutions, but holistically embraces the need to support local communities in pursuit of sustainable livelihood and economic development opportunities,” said Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.
Illegal wildlife trade deprives many rural communities of potential income and is a major loss of unaccounted natural capital for nation states. However, it not only impacts iconic megafauna, such as tigers, rhinos and elephants, but also other species including pangolins, turtles, plants and fish, which require attention as well.
“We need to make sure that the strong commitments made cover all species threatened by illegal trade, and not just those that attract major media attention, such as elephants and rhinos,” said Dr Richard Jenkins, Deputy Director of the IUCN Global Species Programme. “This needs to be supported by improved efforts and greater resources for monitoring populations of wild species so that we are able to determine the effectiveness of our actions.”
During the conference delegates reported on progress made since the signing of the London Declaration. For example, increased levels of law enforcement in some areas, such as Africa, have led to a rise in ivory seizures.
“Whilst progress has been made, there is a long way to go to win this battle. IUCN is increasingly optimistic that, working together, we will be able to gather enough resources and political will to turn the tide,” said Dr Simon Stuart. “We must achieve all of this in 2015, but we must also sustain it to 2016 and beyond, and we must ensure that the next generation of our political leaders are equally committed.”