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Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP Deputy Executive Director, noted that illegal trade in wildlife products remained a portent threat to Africa’s economies, security and ecosystems.
“The illegal trafficking of wildlife species remains a global challenge but Africa is hardest hit by this menace. Giant mammals like rhinos and elephants continue to be hunted down by criminal groups,” Thiaw said.
He spoke on the sidelines of the ongoing second edition of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi.
According to the statistics released at the meeting, illegal wildlife trade is worth up to 20 billion U.S. dollars annually, and is one of the largest illegal trades in the world, along with trafficking of drugs, arms and humans. And an estimated 170 tonnes of ivory was illegally exported out of Africa from 2009 to 2014.
During the inaugural global environment meeting in 2014, UNEP and Interpol launched a report detailing the pervasive nature of wildlife crimes.
According to the “The environmental crime crisis” report, criminal networks are controlling a multibillion trade in illegally harvested flora and fauna across Sub-Saharan Africa.
The report disclosed that elephant and rhino poaching in particular has been a major source of finance to terrorist and militias operating in east and central African region.
Thiaw noted that unlike two years ago, the slaughter of Africa’s iconic mammals has slumped in a number of countries thanks to state led interventions that includes stringent legislation and public awareness.
“African states have tightened legislation to fight poaching while ivory destination countries have also shown commitment to end this vice,” said Thiaw, adding that enhanced intelligence sharing is key to win the war against wildlife crimes.
UN member states adopted far-reaching resolutions to end illegal trade in wildlife products during the inaugural environmental assembly in 2014.
Thiaw noted that national governments across Africa have domesticated global instruments dedicated to re-energizing the war against illegal wildlife trade.
“Progress has been made at country level to combat wildlife crimes,” Thiaw remarked, citing Kenya’s enactment of progressive legislation to fight this menace.
He added that the upcoming CITES meeting to be held in South Africa in September this year will provide African countries with a platform to lobby for a total ban on global trade in ivory.