Sabri Zain, TRAFFIC's Director of Policy, addressing the

Countries commit to address wildlife crime

Sabri Zain, TRAFFIC's Director of Policy, addressing the "eradicating markets" plenary on reducing consumer demand through behaviour change backed by strong enforcement deterrents © James Compton / TRAFFIC


Published 18 November 2016

Illegal Wildlife Trade: Time for countries to match international commitments with national level actions

Hanoi, Viet Nam, 18th November 2016—Representatives from more than 40 governments meeting this week in Hanoi for an international conference on illegal wildlife trade have issued a joint statement outlining future plans and support to address global wildlife crime. 

Following up from commitments made at similar conferences in London, UK, in 2014 and Kasane, Botswana in 2015, the Hanoi Statement took a step further by including country-specific commitments by the 42 participating governments.  

Countries should be congratulated for translating the conference’s commitments into tangible, time-bound actions at the national level. Partnerships between governments, private sector champions, inter-governmental agencies and NGOs will be essential to deliver these commitments into action on the ground.

Sabri Zain, TRAFFIC’s Director of Policy. 

Many countries committed to contribute extra funding towards effective implementation of the Statement. There were also funding commitments to support the work of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) and implementation of its Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit. 

Pledges aimed at reducing demand for illegal wildlife products included continuing current action such as raising awareness in Viet Nam through to more substantive commitments such as publishing the findings of a major demand reduction research project, led by WWF and TRAFFIC, by the UK government. Germany committed to support demand reduction efforts within the framework of the Wildlife Consumer Behaviour Change Toolkit, initiated by TRAFFIC; and China committed to strengthen publicity and education with travellers and through collaborations with internet and logistics enterprises.

In the area of law enforcement, Botswana will work with other Southern African Development Community (SADC) member States to develop, by March 2017, the SADC Trade in Wildlife Exchange (TWIX) – an electronic information system to facilitate exchange of information and enhance co-operation between the management and control authorities involved in investigating transnational wildlife trafficking. Cameroon pledged to work with TRAFFIC and WWF to enhance and enforce the implementation of PAPECALF—a sub-regional Action plan aimed at strengthening the implementation of national laws on wildlife in the ten member countries of the Central African Forests Commission, COMIFAC.

However, there was disappointment that there were few commitments made by countries on a number of key issues, such as the closing down of domestic illegal wildlife markets and the phasing out of tiger and bear farms. The exception was Lao PDR, whose Deputy Prime Minister reiterated his country’s intention to close tiger farms made during the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting held in South Africa this September. 

The Vietnamese Government, in particular, had been under increasing international pressure to announce concrete steps to crack down on the trafficking of rhino horn, ivory and tiger parts ahead of the meeting. Earlier this week, the Wildlife Justice Commission held a public hearing to highlight the lack of action taken by the Vietnamese authorities against a wildlife trafficking syndicate after it had been provided with a “map of facts” of their activities. 

Viet Nam did, however, pledge to monitor domestic markets strictly, eradicate illegal wildlife trade points, and “harmonize the legal documents and by-law documents on wildlife protection”. However, it is unclear if this includes the swift enactment of a new penal code that would impose much stricter penalties for people found guilty of illegally killing wildlife as well as illicitly trafficking wildlife or wildlife products. It is not clear when the Vietnamese government will finalise the drafting of the penal code or when it will come into force, however TRAFFIC welcomes Viet Nam’s position to emphasise illegal wildlife trade as a serious crime within the drafting of the penal code. 

Despite growing international momentum to tackle wildlife crime, the global poaching crisis and surge in illegal wildlife trade is showing few signs of abating—largely because many countries are not living up to their commitments. At least 1,377 rhinos and around 20,000 elephants were poached in Africa last year. Pangolins continue to be trafficked out of Southeast Asia and Africa in vast numbers, while India has lost 76 tigers to poaching this year – the highest number since 2010.

The Hanoi conference concluded today with a Stakeholder Roundtable on the implementation of the Hanoi Statement and sessions that would look at next steps needed to eradicate markets for illegal wildlife products, ensure effective legal frameworks, strengthen enforcement and sustainable livelihoods.

Coming just over a month after the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, TRAFFIC is pleased that many of the actions pledged in the Hanoi Statement implement the ground-breaking Resolutions and Decisions taken at the meeting to address issues such as demand reduction, anti-corruption, cybercrime and the use of specialized law enforcement techniques. 

“The four streams of action debated in Hanoi emphasised how a multi-track approach is essential to tackling the complexities of illegal wildlife trade,” said James Compton, TRAFFIC Senior Director for Asia. “Working on behaviour change to reduce consumer demand, for example, will not work without deterrents to illegal behaviour from effective law enforcement. Legislative instruments and regulatory structures need to include adequate penalties for non-compliance, and allow full investigation and prosecution of wildlife crime. And finally, communities living at the frontline of the illegal wildlife trade need to be supported and engaged meaningfully as the guardians of natural resources.” 

The United Kingdom offered to host a fourth High Level meeting on illegal wildlife trade in London in 2018. Speaking in Hanoi, His Royal Highness Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, said that, despite significant strides since the London Conference, so far the traffickers were winning, and that a betting man would be putting money on extinction.