I am pleased to observe from the participation today that our commitment to eradicating wildlife crime has not diminished since we last met in London in February 2014. Before I delve into substantive issues, I hope that some of you had the opportunity to tour parts of Botswana to experience first-hand our wildlife; flora and fauna in its pristine natural habitat or environment. If you have not had that chance, let me also use this moment to invite you to do so.
Wildlife poaching and trafficking is on the rise throughout much of the world and has reached unprecedented levels. Endangered species are being poached at an alarming rate to satisfy the ever growing demand in consumer States. Serious poaching incidents in source countries and large scale seizures at ports of exit and entry in transit and destination States have become more frequent in recent years.
It is abundantly clear that if we do not take decisive action to combat wildlife trafficking, the ability of many of our iconic wildlife species to survive in the wild will be severely compromised and extinction will become a real possibility in our lifetime. In Botswana we have resolved that no specie will ever become extinct in our country. Well resourced organized crime groups and militias are taking advantage of weakness in legislation, institutional inadequacies and civil unrest in range and consumer countries to supply a seemingly insatiable demand for wildlife products and derivatives, in the process accumulating vast amounts of money. It is conservatively estimated that the illegal wildlife trade is worth USD 10 billion per annum.
Wildlife trafficking is no longer simply about trade in wildlife and their parts and derivatives. Proceeds of trafficking are used to fund other crimes such as terrorism, arms and drugs trafficking. The latter crime undermines the rule of law and fuels corruption. Wildlife rangers who are in the frontline in fighting poaching often lose their lives trying to protect their nations’ wildlife resources. In Botswana we have also deployed the Military, the Police and the Intelligence Services to augment the Department of Wildlife Anti-poaching Unit to combat poaching.
While significant strides have been made to combat the illegal international trade through important instruments such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES) and indeed other international and regional agreements, the enforcement of their provisions remains a challenge to many Parties due to weak institutional capacity and inadequate enforcement of legislation. Differences in legislative provisions and the diversity in the protection status of wildlife species in trade poses a significant challenge to cooperating countries’ ability to ensure that species and their derivatives in trade are legitimately acquired. Often, criminal syndicates make use of the legitimate trade to launder illegally acquired wildlife and their products. The true scale of the illegal trade and its impact on biodiversity and the economies of range States are difficult to calculate.
It is evident from the foregoing that combating the threat of wildlife trafficking requires high level commitment from the international community, particularly the leadership of those countries along the illegal wildlife trafficking chain. Improved intelligence sharing, appropriate national legislation and stricter penalties for wildlife crime will go a long way to counter the transnational wildlife crime more effectively. As a country we are already working on greater penalties for such crimes in addition to the ban on hunting we imposed two years ago.
There is considerable political will to address wildlife crime. This is evidenced by, among others, several commitments that have recently been made to combat such. These include the Marrakesh Declaration endorsed at the African Development Bank annual meeting in May 2013; the Elysée Summit for peace and security in Africa (Paris, December 2013); The African Elephant Summit (Gaborone, December 2013); and the London Declaration Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade (February 2014).
The recent formation of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) which comprises the United Nations Office Drugs and Crime, CITES Secretariat, The World Customs Organisation, the World Bank and INTERPOL, is intended to strengthen the ability of cooperating countries to implement national wildlife legislation. Many countries, cognizant of the need for enhanced regional and international cooperation to counter poaching and trafficking, have set up Wildlife Enforcement Networks whose specific purpose is to improve the sharing of information and intelligence needed to bring to book the perpetrators of wildlife crime.
The London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade held in February 2014 brought together Heads of Governments, as well as Regional Economic Integration Organisations who noted with grave concern the rise in the illicit trade in wildlife with its consequent social, environmental and economic impacts. The London Declaration called for political commitment to combat this scourge and agreed to a number of actions to achieve this end. These primarily focused on eradicating the market for illegal wildlife products, eliminating demand for illegal wildlife products, destroying seized wildlife products and enforcing CITES provisions on regulating the international trade in wildlife. Delegates also proposed actions to criminalise poaching and wildlife trafficking, and related crimes including by ensuring that such criminal offences should be classified as “serious crimes” so as to also address corruption and money-laundering facilitating by wildlife trafficking and related offences. It was resolved that adopting new or amending of existing legislation in this regard could facilitate achieving this objective.
It was also agreed that we would convene here in Kasane to review status of implementation of the actions agreed as part of the London Declaration. I am informed that a large number of countries who endorsed the London Declaration have submitted progress reports, a summary of which will be presented today. The Kasane Conference will also provide an opportunity to develop further actions to deliver the commitments of the Declaration. In addition, the Friends of the Chair and the Senior Officials Group under the chairmanship of the United Kingdom have worked tirelessly over the last few months to craft the Kasane Statement, which will be tabled for adoption at this conference. The Statement does not seek to replace the London Declaration but rather highlights key areas to complement the London Declaration for action by all of us.
The illegal wildlife trade is not a challenge for Africa alone. It is a global problem that needs a global response from Developed and Developing nations. In this regard I would like to commend the partnership of the United Kingdom Government in working with all of us concerned governments and people around the world to tackle this challenge facing our planet.
Having hosted the first Summit of its kind in London last year as I have just spoken, and continuing its engagement with us here today, it is for this reason amongst others that we should hope that the current UK Government will continue to be in office for several more years to come.
It is my sincere desire that when we disperse we will leave with a renewed sense of determination to implement practical measures that will make a meaningful contribution to the fight against wildlife crime.
President Khama's speech at illegal wildlife trade meeting