The world is currently witnessing an unprecedented surge in wildlife trafficking, which is stealing the irreplaceable natural wealth of countries, greatly hindering development, paralysing efforts to eradicate poverty and undermining conservation efforts. This illicit trade in wildlife is well organised, transnational and happening across every region.
As a result of this, talk of prohibiting, preventing and countering corruption must take centre stage when signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty on regulating the international trade in wildlife meet in Johannesburg this weekend.
As countries prepare for the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Cites (CoP17), there is increasing recognition that to curb the global surge in wildlife trafficking we must counter the corrosive corruption that enables it.
Corruption aids and abets transnational organised crime, and is particularly rife where there is high-volume wildlife trafficking, such as with raw elephant ivory.
The first ever World Wildlife Crime report, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) earlier this year, says more than 7,000 species of wild animals and plants are threatened by this illicit trade. It highlights that certain forms of illegal wildlife trade, such as the international illicit trade in rhino horn, would not be possible without corruption.
It is well established that corruption harms people, undermining the rule of law, institutions and sustainable development. By enabling wildlife trafficking, it is also helping to drive species of wild animals and plants to extinction.
Animals like elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered for their ivory and horn. Corruption often enables the passage of goods from source, through transit, to illicit markets and the unscrupulous dealers who may be many thousands of kilometres away from where the specimens were stolen.
It’s not just iconic species being affected. Pangolins are being wiped out for their meat and scales. Rosewood is being plundered from forests for timber. Smuggling of rare iguanas for the pet trade is decimating wild populations, an illicit trade that spans three continents, with the animals being poached in the Bahamas, trafficked into Europe and south-east Asia, and involving nationals from at least five countries. Illicit trade affects every country across the globe.
Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge will intensify pressure on politicians to ban the sale of ivory this week, as senior Tories demand Theresa May acts now to protect elephants and rhinos.
The Duke will make a speech to be broadcast around the world on Thursday, demonstrating his determination to help save endangered African wildlife.
According to the Telegraph, tackling the illegal wildlife trade is a long-standing passion for the Duke. He is patron of Tusk, a charity that campaigns for governments to protect African wildlife and help alleviate poverty.
He will address an event in London hosted by the Tusk Trust this week, and his speech will be broadcast live to audiences in Tokyo and Johannesburg.
Speaking last year, the Duke said: “Let us not tell our children the sad tale of how we watched as the last elephants, rhinos and tigers died out, but the inspiring story of how we turned the tide and preserved them for all humanity.”