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Ground-breaking report raises concerns over global wildlife trade

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
05 December 2022   |   3:23 am
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat has published the first-ever World Wildlife Trade Report, which gives insights and analysis into the global trade in animals and plants that are regulated under this international treaty.

•$220 billion generated yearly in legal trade transactions
•Consortium launches vision 2030 for wildlife crime free world

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat has published the first-ever World Wildlife Trade Report, which gives insights and analysis into the global trade in animals and plants that are regulated under this international treaty.

CITES regulates trade in nearly 40,000 species, worldwide. 183 of the world’s governments (and also the European Union) have agreed to be bound by its terms that aim to stop international trade becoming a threat to the viability of any species it lists.

The report is a joint production involving a partnership of UN organisations and leading conservation organisations: the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), along with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and TRAFFIC. The milestone report is packed with statistics that cover the routes, scale, and patterns of legal, international trade in CITES-listed species, together with the values, conservation impacts, and socio-economic benefits of this trade and the linkages between legal and illegal trade.

The report draws on millions of records; with more than 1.2 million CITES trade permits issued every year. Over 80 pages, it looks into a wide range of trade topics. It is the first report of its kind that is designed to help inform conservation policies and practices for governments, organisations, businesses and trade bodies, as well as the media and general public.

It will also contribute to CITES’ global vision, which is that by 2030, all trade in listed species should be legal, traceable and sustainable. The report was launched as part of the World Wildlife Conference or CITES CoP19 in Panama.

The report also shows that the proportion of wild-sourced plants in trade has further decreased over the past ten-year period to merely 4 per cent in terms of the number of individual plants. In other words, vast majority of plants in trade are artificially propagated and are no longer ‘wild’..

The findings of the pilot report include that between 2011-2020, approximately 3.5 million CITES shipments were reported in direct trade by exporters. This amounted to over 1.3 billion individual organisms (1.26 billion plants and 82 million animals) and an additional 279 million kg of products reported by weight (193 million kg of plants and 86 million kg of animals).

Asia and Africa are the regions that account for the highest proportion of the estimated value of global exports. Approximately half of the estimated annual average value of global CITES-listed animal exports originated from Asia while almost two-thirds of the estimated annual average value of global CITES-listed plant exports was attributed to exports from Africa.

The yearly revenue generated by the global legal trade in wildlife (CITES and non-CITES) in total has been estimated at $220 billion per year. In this analysis the financial value of direct global exports of CITES-listed species over the period 2016-2020 was approximately $1.8 billion for animal exports and $9.3 billion for plant exports.

WTO Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said: “Maybe no other area in international trade is closer to our relationship with nature than trade in wildlife. The multilateral trading system has thus a duty – anchored on its central objective to promote sustainable development – to ensure trade is a key part of the solution to the wildlife conservation crisis.

“However, for too long the picture of how trade interacts with wildlife has been incomplete. This first World Wildlife Trade Report makes a concrete contribution to current discussions and efforts to align trade and trade policies with conservation efforts.

“Not only does it contribute with sorely needed data, but – importantly – it also points to areas where more work is required, including from the trade community. The WTO stands ready to continue and reinforce our historical cooperation with CITES and the other leading institutions responsible for this important Report.”

MEANWHILE, the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime has launched its Vision 2030, which will support parties’ efforts to combat wildlife crime and to contribute towards a world free of wildlife crime.

ICCWC is a unique partnership between five intergovernmental organisations to strengthen criminal justice systems and provide coordinated support at national, regional and international level to combat wildlife and forest crime.

It brings together Interpol, The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, The World Bank Group, The World Customs Organization and the CITES Secretariat. Cites is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The vision aims to contribute significantly to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), through the interconnection of wildlife crime to broader environmental and socioeconomic goals and through advocating the importance of criminal justice. Importantly, the work of ICCWC contributes both directly and indirectly to 10 of the 17 SDGs.

Secretary-General of CITES, Ivonne Higuero, highlighted that: “Parties are at the forefront of our efforts and CITES is proud to stand alongside our ICCWC partners to continue to support their hard work to combat wildlife crime.”

The framework of the ICCWC Vision 2030 provides a roadmap, to be implemented through two 4-year Strategic Action Plans (2023-2026 and 2027-2030) that will enable addressing wildlife crime in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

“ICCWC is not only a mechanism allowing for effective collaboration amongst key international organizations. It is also much more and more importantly, it is about actionable resource bringing concrete benefits to our member countries, and ultimately to the environment and resources that we all depend on,” said Steven Kavanagh, Executive Director Police Services at INTERPOL.

“The victims of these crimes are the planet and people; these crimes affect communities and undermine the resilience of ecosystems, and the consequences are severe for our shared future”, said Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

“Wildlife crime is at its heart a development issue. We live in a world today where development is slowing, and the ranks of the extreme poor are swelling. And the three reasons behind this are tied inextricably to natural resources and environmental crime”, said Valerie Hickey Global Director, Environment, Natural Resources & Blue Economy at the World Bank Group.

“The CITES Conference of the Parties is an excellent forum to gather the international community in assessing our efforts to protect our planet’s most vulnerable species. ICCWC takes this opportunity to present to the international community the ICCWC Vision 2030 and its Action Plan, detailing ICCWC’s future endeavours to disrupt criminal syndicates’ activities and mitigate wildlife and forestry crime at global level”, said Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary-General of the World Customs Organisation.