Zero Tolerance for Illegal Wildlife Trade


The Maritime Executive

Date Published

A zero-tolerance policy towards the illegal wildlife trade was among several concrete measures agreed this week by members of the United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products.

Members of the taskforce, including IMO, agreed the text of a declaration, to be signed next March, containing firm commitments to tackle the international wildlife trade. Many within the transport sector, including companies represented on the task force, have agreed to enforce a zero-tolerance policy by never knowingly facilitating or tolerating the carriage of illegal wildlife or illegal wildlife products. The policy will be included in documents such as conditions of carriage, employment and client contracts as well as in marketing material.

The declaration also includes commitments to establish a harmonized mechanism for sharing information about the international wildlife trade and to develop the use of due diligence and risk assessment systems to identify potential wildlife trade shipments. Companies will also be encouraged to establish mechanisms for reporting suspicious activity to enforcement authorities and develop appropriate staff-training programs.

A cross-disciplinary team will be established to work with local customs and law enforcement authorities to develop a system of best practice for combatting illegal wildlife trade in key ports, and the World Customs Organisation and national customs authorities will be supported in developing mechanisms to aid detecting and preventing the illegal wildlife trade.

The commitments included in the declaration will, if adopted by the wider transport sector, help break the chain between suppliers and consumers and lead to a tangible and significant reduction in the volume of the international wildlife trade.

A Global Problem

The international wildlife trade continues to be a pressing global problem, requiring the combined efforts and attention of the global community to prevent the loss of many of the world’s iconic species.

Despite many positive recent developments, the need for urgent action remains. The Transport Taskforce aims to combat the international trafficking that facilitates international wildlife trade, specifically through the transport industry. Members include representatives from the transport industry, alongside governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies.

United for Wildlife is a collaboration of seven of the world’s leading conservation organizations and The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Led by The Duke of Cambridge, its prime objectives are better on-site protection for wildlife, a reduction in demand for illegal wildlife products, to improve law enforcement, to work with the private sector to reduce trafficking and to engage young people with conservation.

China and Africa Act

In another development, meetings of Chinese and African leaders last week ended with the two sides agreeing to collaborate more closely on protecting wildlife resources and in particular on jointly addressing illegal trade in fauna and flora.

The new Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Johannesburg Action Plan (2016-2018) commits China and 50 African Member States to work closely to combat illegal trade of fauna and flora products.

The collaborative pledge is in reaction to previously unseen levels of poaching and wildlife trafficking and to the growing recognition of the impact of wildlife crime on broader issues such as rule of law, national security, rural livelihoods and economic development.

African countries and China have recently been at the forefront of ground-breaking high-level initiatives such as the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on “Tackling the Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife” adopted last July and the Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade held in Kasane, Botswana earlier in March.

During Premier Li Keqiang’s State visit to Africa in May 2014, he announced $10 million in aid for co-operation with African States in wildlife protection.

African countries have also recently joined hands as a continent to address the issue. At the International Conference on Illegal Exploitation and Illicit Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora in Africa that took place in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, in April 2015, African leaders issued a 20-point Declaration urging coordinated regional and international action against wildlife crime.