THE role of local communities in combating illegal wildlife trade is largely overlooked as those involved in the effort often use other approaches to tackling the issue, said the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
During the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in Vietnam recently, IUCN said it believes this is overlooked given the current emphasis on law enforcement responses and demand reduction efforts.
“Poaching and wildlife trafficking are extremely complex issues and are direct factors causing the extinction of many endangered and rare species,” said Aban Marker Kabraji, the Asia Regional Director of the IUCN.
“Such activities are adversely affecting natural resources and rural communities, generating huge profits for international crime syndicates, and contributing to increased public health risks.” she continued.
The illegal wildlife trade has long been a bane in the Asian region and with that in mind, global leaders in the effort to tackle the illicit activity came together at the conference on Nov 17 and 18 to discuss ways to eradicate the illicit trade and ensure effective protection of endangered wildlife from imminent threats of extinction.
The IUCN, one of the organisations present at the meeting, hopes to help find pragmatic solutions to the world’s most pressing environment and development challenges, while insisting that local communities must play a role in helping combat wildlife trafficking.
IUCN president Zhang Xinsheng said the union is currently carrying out science-based research and collating the information in order to enhance the understanding of the conditions under which community engagement against illegal wildlife trade will work, as well as how to capitalise on it.
“With an improved understanding of enabling conditions and incentives, we will be able to provide guidance and technical advice to stakeholders, and further promote opportunities for engaging local communities in combating illegal wildlife trade,” he said.
Zhang reiterated the response to this global threat is varied and complex.
“…Comprehensive and realistic approaches are needed across the entire trade chain, including preserving wildlife populations and habitat, sustainably managing legal trade, curbing poaching, strengthening legislation and enforcement, preventing illegally traded wildlife from crossing borders, and reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife in consumer markets,” Zhang said
“IUCN calls on donors to support surveys and population assessments for animal and plant species that are known, or thought, to be seriously impacted by illegal killing and trade,” added Zhang.
Zhang met with Vietnam’s Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, Dr. Tran Hong Ha, to discuss the Green Climate Fund proposal as well as cooperation with the Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands.
Zhang also met with Vietnamese Vice Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ha Cong Tuan, and had several meetings with various IUCN Members at the IUCN Vietnam office to discuss collaboration opportunities, as well as IUCN’s 2017 – 2020 Inter-sessional Programming.
IUCN places major emphasis on the importance of science-based data on the status of species and populations.
“The recently published IUCN African Elephant Status Report 2016 was used by Parties at the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES to inform decisions on the conservation and management of Africa’s elephants,” Zhang also said.
Jake Brunner, Head of the IUCN Indo-Burma Group, said the conference reaffirms high levels of international support for combating wildlife crime.
“The challenge now is for the region’s governments to translate this support into effective enforcement of national laws,” Brunner said.