Published 26 November 2015


High-level action on wildlife crime urged at China-Africa Summit

Johannesburg, South Africa, November 26th, 2015—A historic meeting of African and Chinese leaders will take place next week to examine ways of deepening cooperation between Africa and its largest trading partner. TRAFFIC hopes the meeting will lead to closer collaboration on an issue that has been of mutual concern to both Africa and China in recent years - the growing threat of wildlife crime. The 6th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) will take place from December 2nd-3rd, 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, followed by the Second Summit of FOCAC from December 4th and 5th.

FOCAC was formally established at the Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing in 2000.  At the last FOCAC Ministerial Conference in Beijing in 2012, environmental degradation was recognised as a major global threat, with commitments made for increased social responsibility of Chinese companies operating in Africa and sustainable forest management. Trade in wildlife, however, has not yet been dealt with specifically at the level of FOCAC.

TRAFFIC Executive Director Steven Broad said since the last FOCAC Ministerial meeting in 2012, there has been an unprecedented level of attention paid to the issue of wildlife crime at the highest levels of government.

Much of this has been a reaction to previously unseen levels of poaching and wildlife trafficking, but it is also due to the growing realisation of the impact of wildlife crime on broader issues such as rule of law, national security, rural livelihoods and economic development

Steven Broad, TRAFFIC Executive Director African countries and China had been at the forefront of ground-breaking high-level initiatives such as the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on 'Tackling the Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife' adopted last July and the Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade held in Kasane, Botswana earlier in March.  During Premier Li Keqiang's State visit to Africa in May 2014, he announced USD10 million in aid for cooperation with African States in wildlife protection. More recently, during President Xi Jinping’s State visit to the USA in September 2015, the USA and China made the joint commitment to enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export and to phase out the domestic commercial trade of ivory.

"Next week's FOCAC meeting presents an ideal opportunity for China and Africa to reinforce the commitments made at these events by pledging the highest level support for closer cooperation on jointly tackling the rising tide of wildlife crime," Broad said.

African countries have also recently joined hands as a continent to address the issue. At the International Conference on Illegal Exploitation and Illicit Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora in Africa that took place in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, in April 2015, African leaders issued a 20-point Declaration urging co-ordinated regional and international action against wildlife crime. Among the recommendations of the so-called Brazzaville Declaration was for the next Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and other relevant summits, to include the issue of wildlife crime as a priority agenda item.

Commenting on the meetings next week, Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission, noted that the 27th Ordinary Session of Executive Council of the African Union that met in June had endorsed an ‘African Strategy on Combating Illegal Exploitation and Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora in Africa’. "By means of this strategy, the Commission aims to galvanize collective action across borders and apply practical, home-grown solutions towards decisively eliminating poaching and wildlife trafficking," she said. "The strategy also calls for enhancing engagement with transit and consumer States to reduce demand, supply and transit of illegal products of wild fauna and flora. I am looking forward to a commitment from our leaders at next week's FOCAC meeting to support and implement these calls.”

The FOCAC meetings next week will agree on a China-Africa Cooperation Action Plan for 2016-2018 and TRAFFIC is calling for delegates to support the inclusion of elements addressing wildlife trade into that Plan. These could include:      

  • Measures to strengthen bilateral law enforcement co-operation against illegal wildlife trafficking from African States to China.
  • China to collaborate with African States on engaging Chinese citizens living and working in, or visiting Africa, through targeted dialogues and public outreach efforts about the implications of illegal wildlife trade. 
  • African States to implement governmental commitments to increase anti-poaching and law enforcement efforts to disrupt criminal networks.
  • China to assist African States in their efforts to combat poaching and protect their wild biodiversity, particularly populations of endangered species, by taking leadership and ownership of evidence-led consumer behaviour change approaches to reduce demand for wildlife products.
  • China to continue to provide targeted financial and technical support and training for African law enforcement, judicial and scientific professionals, to promote the aforementioned actions. 
  • China to support participatory work that actively engages local communities in Africa to develop knowledge, expertise and best practice in managing wildlife resources, promote sustainable livelihoods and catalyse local community-based actions to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

WWF will be organising a conference "FOCAC: Opportunities and challenges to creating sustainable development pathways" on the eve of the Ministerial Conference and Summit, which will begin with a panel session on "Wildlife Trade: Addressing co-operation on wildlife trade between Africa and China". The aim of this session is to raise awareness of the risks and opportunities involved in wildlife trade, in terms of the potential for sustainable use of Africa's wildlife resources that can lead to positive development and growth for trading partners, the threat of unsustainable wildlife trade depleting Africa of its natural wealth, and the illegal trade that encourages organized criminal activities that have a detrimental impact on rural communities due lost potential revenues and livelihoods, and on governments due to the loss to State revenues.

The WWF event will be held on 1st December 2015 at the Wanderers Country Club, Illovo, Johannesburg and panellists will include experts from TRAFFIC, WWF and the Global Initiative on Transnational Organised Crime network. This session is supported by the German Polifund project, implemented by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).