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Countries in Asia, Africa and North America are joining forces in cracking down on wildlife crime
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Stopping Illegal Wildlife Trade
Cover Stories Series 2014> Stopping Illegal Wildlife Trade
UPDATED: February 18, 2014
Policy Response: Tackling the Trade at All Levels
By Katherine Lawson and Alex Vines

There are success stories of policy responses which have led to effective anti-poaching measures. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the body that conserves and manages Kenya's wildlife and National Parks, has an efficient training programme for rangers, and is well supported by the Kenyan government and by stakeholders. The KWS has sought out cross-border wildlife security collaborative initiatives with Tanzanian and Ugandan Wildlife Authorities, and Kenya recently passed a law with stiffer penalties against poachers, which has been praised by the UNEP. Having suffered the loss of 60 rhinos to poachers in 2013, the Kenyan authorities hope that the new Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill may deter poachers in the future.

Having lost one-third of its forest elephants over the last ten years, Gabon has taken a proactive stance to protect its wildlife. After co-hosting the 68th UN General Assembly side event on 'Poaching and Illicit Wildlife Trafficking: A Multidimensional Crime and Growing Challenge to the International Community' with Germany in September 2013, President Ali Bongo has spoken out at a variety of forums to urge the international community to take wildlife crime seriously. Gabon has taken action to safeguard its elephants, many of which live in the well-protected Wonga-Wongue Reserve.

High-level responses to the drastic increase in wildlife crime are gathering pace. The UK government has announced a £10 million grant to support efforts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade in ivory and rhino horn, which will be used to reduce poaching incentives by improving economic opportunities and promoting good governance; providing training and support to agencies addressing the illegal wildlife trade; and raising awareness of the illegal trade in wildlife.

Public displays of ivory destruction are sending messages to the international community and to consumers that the ivory trade now poses an international security threat as well as destroying endangered species. The Obama administration recently crushed all six million tons of its confiscated illegal ivory, and U.S. State Department officials now 'openly refer to wildlife trafficking as a national security crisis.'The White House has also pledged $10 million to curb illegal trafficking and help stabilize parts of Africa plagued by insurgency.As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton issued a 'Call to Action' in 2012 against wildlife trafficking. This was followed in 2013 by the launching of President Obama's 'Executive Order 13648 on Combating Wildlife Trafficking', which has identified wildlife trafficking as an escalating international crisis that must be addressed in the U.S. national interest because of its role in fuelling instability and undermining security.

In 2012, almost five tons of illegal ivory worth $9.3 million were burned in Gabon, in order to send a strong signal against poaching. President Ali Bongo stated that 'Gabon has a policy of zero tolerance for wildlife crime and we are putting in place the institutions and laws to ensure this policy is enforced'. He also spoke on security threats and illegal trafficking at the 2013 African Development Bank Annual Meeting, noting that there needed to be a global solution with collaboration between governments and transnational organizations. These actions follow similar demonstrations in Kenya, Togo and the Philippines, where five tons of ivory were destroyed in June 2013.

The IUCN African Elephant Summit was held in Botswana from December 2 to 4, 2013, with all 30 governments present agreeing to a set of Urgent Measures to 'halt and reverse the trend in illegal killing of elephants and the illegal ivory trade'. Included among the 14 Urgent Measures drawn up are the need to strengthen existing regulatory frameworks for the arrest and prosecution of suspected wildlife criminals, and the need to implement legislation to classify wildlife trafficking involving organized criminal groups as a 'serious crime'.

Another prominent arena in which governments took a stand against illegal wildlife trafficking in 2013 was at the Sixteenth CITES Conference of the Parties in March, hosted in Bangkok. Parties agreed to Resolution Conf. 16.9, which is concerned with improving funding and support for the African Elephant Action Plan, a consensus between all 37 African elephant range states to ensure their continued survival across their range.

The international community is starting to take notice of the consequences of the illegal wildlife trade beyond environmental concerns, but there is still scope for improved coordination between source, transit and demand countries involved in the illicit trade.

(Source: Global Impacts of the Illegal Wildlife Trade -- The Costs of Crime, Insecurity and Institutional Erosion)

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