Their horn, selling for thousands of dollars a kilo, is now worth more than gold. In 2013, at least 22,000 elephants were killed in Africa by poachers. Millions of animals are killed every year.
The alarming rise in illegal slaughter and trade of endangered animals is cause for deep concern.
March 3 will be the first International World Wildlife Day. We should mark it by taking action.
Illegal trade in wildlife is a serious crime against the natural heritage of humankind. Its escalation comes at severe economic, social, and environmental cost.
It drives corruption, hampers sustainable economic development, and undermines the rule of law. Organised wildlife crime threatens the livelihoods of communities that depend on natural resources.
Wildlife crime has also become a serious security threat because those involved are paramilitary gangs associated with crime syndicates or terrorist groups. The proceedings of the illegal trade often end up in the hands of armed militias and terrorists like Al-Shabaab.
The problem of smuggled animal derivatives is, therefore, more than just a major challenge to conservationists. Eradicating illegal trade in wildlife is a cross-cutting issue with global relevance in many areas. The international community must work together to combat wildlife crime as a threat to our common global heritage.
MARKETS OF POACHED PRODUCTS
We welcome the outcome of the End Wildlife Crime conference in London. High-ranking representatives from 46 states and the United Nations, including delegates from Vietnam and China, agreed on key actions against wildlife crime.
We must support states in Africa and elsewhere to effectively fight wildlife crime. We must also dry up the markets of poached products all over the world and particularly in the Far East.
The fight against wildlife crime must be taken to the highest political level. In June, the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi will discuss international efforts to stop illegal trade in wildlife. Germany will push for concrete actions to protect endangered animals and prevent poaching.
The fight against illegal trade in wildlife is a priority of Germany’s international policy. In 2014, it will contribute 240 million euros towards nature reserve management in Africa. A significant portion of these funds goes into projects directly tackling wildlife crime and its root causes.
One of the programmes that the German Government supports is the Bouba Ndjida National Park area in Cameroon, where more than 300 elephants were massacred in 2012. German private organisations are complementing the efforts by the German Government.
In Kenya, Nabu, a German NGO, recently set up a fund to support the families of rangers killed in service to prevent poaching.
One thing is clear: We must not wait any longer. The time for action to save wildlife is now. If we do not act, our children may know elephants or rhinos only from history books.
Concerted global effort is required. Germany firmly stands by Kenya and other African countries in their wildlife protection efforts. It is our common heritage and joint responsibility.
The writer is the German ambassador to Kenya.