Beyond Their Capacity

President Ali Bongo of Gabon
President Ali Bongo of Gabon

President Ali Bongo of Gabon says illicit wild life trade is a global problem which is beyond the capacity of African leaders to tackle alone

By Maureen Chigbo, Marrakesh, Morroco  |  Jun. 10, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

ILLICIT wild life trafficking is becoming a scourge in the African continent and will continue to negatively affect sustainable development if nothing is done immediately to check it. For instance, illegal wild life trafficking destroys natural assets which rural citizens depend on. Worse still, poachers stop at nothing to get to the animal including killing game rangers who stand in their way. In the last 10 years, Africa has lost 76 percent of its surviving forest elephants. Gabon alone, which is the least affected, lost 20,000 elephants and there are about 6000 illegal traffickers who are also involved in illegal mining.  Altogether, Africa is losing $10 billion annually to the illicit trade in wild life and the west coast is the hardest hit.

The urgency of the situation was brought to bear when President Ali Bongo of Gabon said at the high level seminar entitled “Illegal Wildlife Trade: A Rising Threat to Development” that: “We are under attack. This is why I had no choice than to come to Marrakesh to convey the message of heads of State. We cannot solve this problem alone because it is a global problem.” The seminar was one of the side events at the African Development Bank annual meeting on May 30, Marrakesh, Morroco.

According to Bongo, the profit to be made from the trade is very rewarding with low risks, and lamented that proceeds from the trade are used to finance conflicts and terrorism in Africa. He said that solving the problem would involve strengthening wildlife law enforcement to ensure serious deterrent measures.

The seriousness of the illicit trading on wildlife explained why the African Development Bank, AfDB, and the World Wildlife Fund, WWF, on Thursday in Marrakesh launched a joint global call for action and commitment from governments and other institutions to combat the rampant illicit wildlife trafficking scourge that is robbing Africa of precious natural resources and posing a major threat to stability and economies across the continent. The AfDB also launched the Marrakesh Declaration highlighting the out-of-control nature of illicit wildlife trafficking and urging “countries and their citizens to act urgently to fight illicit wildlife trafficking in Africa and across the globe”.

Jim Leape

Donald Kaberuka AfDB president and Jim Leape, WWF International director-general also called for commitment at the highest level. “Illicit wildlife trafficking is a wrong that we must relentlessly resist – our people, our natural resources and our very economic development are at risk. I call on leaders across Africa and beyond to invest in our region’s future by doing all they can to strengthen law enforcement and criminal justice for these crimes,” Kaberuka said.

“Wildlife crime is a serious crime, and it is not just the rhinos and elephants that are in danger – there are grave implications also for national security, the rule of law and the wellbeing of communities across Africa. Action is needed now at the highest levels if we are to bring this crisis under control,” said Leape.

Efforts to solve the problem include a summit of heads of state to be held soon. Also, the matter is to be taken to the UN general assembly. This is why Leape said that they would like to get a report of the position which African governments have taken on the Marrakesh Declaration at the two events which will take place in six months’ time.

Wildlife crime also featured at a United Nations Security Council gathering yesterday in New York, where Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, released a report on illicit wildlife trafficking being a serious crime needing urgent attention. The WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organisations, with more than five million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and also promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

The African Development Bank spurs sustainable economic development and social progress, thereby reducing poverty, in its 54 regional member countries – by mobilising and allocating resources for investment, and providing policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts. All multilateral development institutions embrace the Millennium Development Goals as their guiding objectives – from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, to ensuring environmental sustainability for all.