Countries pledge tougher penalties for wildlife traffickers, kingpins
THIRTY-two countries and several international organizations have pledged new and tougher action on combating the wildlife trade during the Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in Kasane, Botswana.
The signatories to the agreement committed to strengthen legislation and ensure harsher penalties for financial crimes related to the illegal wildlife trade. They also reaffirmed a zero-tolerance policy for corruption, which will be conducive to the due prosecution and sentencing of kingpins controlling the illegal wildlife trade.
The participants further promised to eradicate both the demand for and supply of illegal wildlife products, and to work towards achieving sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by wildlife crime, recognizing that the active engagement of local people is key to effective monitoring and law enforcement.
The Kasane Conference came on the back of last year’s London Conference, which acknowledged that the illegal wildlife trade had reached unprecedented levels and constituted a crisis. A historic UN resolution focused on illegal wildlife trade followed in June 2014, adopted by 157 countries, gathered for the first-ever UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi.
More recently, the outcomes of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals also underscored the need to combat illicit wildlife trade. Earlier this month, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment provided support and guidance to the work of the African Union towards a pan-African Strategy to address the illegal trade in wildlife.
The international community has since undertaken significant steps to address the crisis. For example, nine internet enterprises in China, including two giants-Alibaba and Tencent-committed to not offering publicity or trading services to illegal wildlife products on their networks.