The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 3 March – the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – as World Wildlife Day. On this second observance of the Day, the UN system, its Member States and a wide range of partners from around the world are highlighting the simple yet firm message that “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime”.
Illegal trade in wildlife has become a sophisticated transnational form of crime, comparable to other pernicious examples, such as trafficking of drugs, humans, counterfeit items and oil. It is driven by rising demand, and is often facilitated by corruption and weak governance. There is strong evidence of the increased involvement of organized crime networks and non-State armed groups.
Illegal wildlife trade undermines the rule of law and threatens national security; it degrades ecosystems and is a major obstacle to the efforts of rural communities and indigenous peoples striving to sustainably manage their natural resources. Combatting this crime is not only essential for conservation efforts and sustainable development, it will contribute to achieving peace and security in troubled regions where conflicts are fuelled by these illegal activities.
Getting serious about wildlife crime means enrolling the support of all sections of society involved in the production and consumption of wildlife products, which are widely used as medicines, food, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and accessories. Law enforcement efforts must be supported by the wider community. Businesses and the general public in all countries can play a major role by, for example, refusing to buy or auction illegal ivory and rhinoceros horn, and insisting that products from the world’s oceans and tropical forests have been legally obtained and sustainably sourced.
On this World Wildlife Day, I urge all consumers, suppliers and governments to treat crimes against wildlife as a threat to our sustainable future. It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime.