UN and world leaders called for zero tolerance for illegal trade in wildlife on World Environment Day (WED), which was celebrated globally under the theme, 'Go wild for life.' Statements on the Day stressed achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development's Target 15.7, which calls for "urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products."
5 June 2016: UN and world leaders called for zero tolerance for illegal trade in wildlife on World Environment Day (WED), which was celebrated globally under the theme, ‘Go wild for life.’ Statements on the Day stressed achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s Target 15.7, which calls for “urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products.”
While UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments and citizens everywhere to end wildlife crime, saying “there is grave cause for alarm,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner called for “zero tolerance for poaching and illegal trade in wildlife.” He stressed an urgent need to reverse illicit wildlife trade by thinking globally, but acting locally, noting that such trade destroys natural capital and undermines the rule of law all around the world.
To mark the Day, UNEP urged participation in the ‘Go Wild for Life’ campaign, which aims to raise awareness and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products. The campaign stresses that fashion, corruption and greed, ignorance, investment or cultural beliefs should not be allowed to endanger any animal, plant or tree species. The campaign focuses on eight species inclusive of orangutans, sea turtles, pangolins, rosewoods, helmeted hornbills, tigers, elephants and rhinos, and allows online participants to take a survey and determine their “kindred species.” UNEP, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Convention on the International Trade in Wilde Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) launched the campaign at the second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in May. More than 25,000 people have since determined their species to demonstrate commitment to wildlife protection, according to UNEP.
“The global nature of this crime compels us to stand united and to promote global solutions to halt the catastrophic poaching and trafficking of wildlife,” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said on the Day, pointing out that every country is either a source, transit or destination for wildlife products. Observing that criminal networks and poachers have little regard for biodiversity or the impact of their actions on the environment and communities, he stressed how wildlife crime deprives people of a sustainable livelihood and is closely connected to other crimes, including corruption, fraud, money laundering and human trafficking.
“Wildlife crime is not confined to the land,” pointed out Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). In an opinion piece, he highlights the potential of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), which entered into force on the Day, to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and prevent “pirate vessels from selling their illicit catch.” In the article, Chambers also underscores collaboration between CMS and CITES, such as on the Saiga Antelope, as part of the solution to ending wildlife crime.
Two reports, discussing wildlife crime, were also highlighted on the Day. UNODC’s ‘World Wildlife Crime Report,’ finds “that 7,000 species were found in more than 164,000 seizures affecting 120 countries.” Fedotov said the report provides a global assessment of wildlife crime that will support the design of effective, efficient solutions to tackling it. Another publication, a joint INTERPOL-UNEP report titled ‘The Rise of Environmental Crime’ shows that transnational criminal networks profit up to US$258 billion per year from environmental crimes, including in wildlife, a figure that “dwarfs the illegal trade in small arms.” INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said, “The complexity of this type of criminality requires a multi-sector response underpinned by collaboration across borders,” emphasizing INTERPOL’s commitment to combating environmental crime. The report recommends strong legislation and sanctions at international and national levels, including actions that disrupt overseas tax havens and promote economic incentives and alternative livelihoods for those at the bottom of the chain of environmental crime.
In advance of the Day, UNEP and Georgetown University Law Center announced a fellowship for environmental lawyers practicing in the public sector in developing countries to earn a Masters of Law Degree (LL.M.) in Environmental Law. The fellowship aims to strengthen the environmental capacity of lawyers globally.
Angola, the host of World Environment Day, opened a school for wildlife rangers on the Day. The country lost many elephants during its civil war and the remaining population is under pressure from poachers, according to the UN. Opening the celebrations, Angola’s Vice President Manuel Domingos Vicente said the country “has established an environmental crime unit to eliminate poaching and put an end to the killing of species that are crucial for ecosystems.” The country is also considering alternative livelihood options for those engaging in the chain of illegal wildlife trade, the UN states.
Ban, Steiner and CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon all welcomed Angola’s efforts to address wildlife crime by ending its domestic ivory trade and extending efforts to control smuggling over its borders. Scanlon described how Angola has worked with the CITES Secretariat and partners to implement the Convention and enhance its enforcement capacity, informing that Angola is implementing a National Ivory Action Plan. Ban welcomed Angola’s actions to strengthening its legislation and increase its border controls, saying such actions send “a strong message that wild species of plants and animals are a precious commodity that must be sustainably managed and protected from illegal trade.”
Other events took place around the world, including in Australia, China, India, Nepal, Sweden and the US. [UN Press Release] [UNEP Press Release 1] [UNEP Press Release 2] [UNEP Press Release 3] [UNEP Press Release 4] [UNEP Press Release 5] [UNODC Executive Director Statement] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [CMS Executive Secretary Statement] [CITES Secretary-General Statement] [IUCN Director-General Statement] [FAO Press Release] [UNODC Press Release] [The Rise of Environmental Crime] [World Wildlife Crime Report] [WED Website] [Wild for Life Campaign]