Published 21 May 2013

Royal event to tackle illegal wildlife trade

London, UK, 21st May 2013—His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and the UK Government are today hosting a conference calling for action at the highest level to end the trade in illegal wildlife—a trade that presents a grave threat not only to the natural world, but also to national and regional security. 

HRH The Prince of Wales & the UK Government are today hosting a conference calling for action at the highest level to end the illegal wildlife trade. © European Parliament / Creative Commons

HRH The Prince of Wales is President of WWF-UK and shares many of the same conservation interests including the desire to see an end to illegal wildlife trade. 

The initiative aims to highlight the issue on the international political agenda.

High level representatives from some of the countries impacted by international wildlife crime activities are expected to attend, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Gabon, Germany, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Netherlands, Malaysia, Mozambique, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uganda, USA and Viet Nam.

“The illegal wildlife trade threatens to overturn decades of conservation efforts, putting some iconic and ecologically important species at risk of extinction,” said David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK. 

“This multi-billion pound trade also fuels other types of crime and has a devastating impact on some of the poorest people on the planet.” 

“With poaching and wildlife trafficking at record levels, we hope that this meeting will be the start of a ground-breaking initiative in the fight against this deadly and destructive trade.”

A record 668 rhinos in South Africa were killed by poachers last year, and close to 300 have died so far in 2013. Earlier this month, at least 26 elephants were massacred in a World Heritage Site in the Central African Republic, after 17 individuals armed with Kalashnikov rifles entered the unique elephant habitat at Dzanga Bai, known locally as the “village of elephants”.

This meeting will lay the groundwork for a Heads of State meeting in the autumn, also hosted by the UK Government, where it is hoped governments will commit to actions that will reduce demand for endangered wildlife and related products in markets around the world; improve global enforcement and criminal justice against the organized syndicates engaged in this activity; and assist rural communities to find long-term, viable alternatives to the trade. 

UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “It is all too easy to think that the extinction of a species is a thing of the past, when it is a very real problem today. That is why I’m pleased to be co-hosting the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference with the Prince of Wales. This is a real opportunity to get these issues raised at the highest level internationally. By working together we can reduce demand for endangered wildlife and related products around the world and assist communities to find long-term alternatives to the trade.”

Sabri Zain, TRAFFIC’s Director of Advocacy, addressed meeting participants and spoke of the need to curb the demand that is fuelling the poaching crisis. 

“There is an urgent need for us to explore new approaches to understanding and influencing the drivers behind consumer demand for endangered wildlife—going beyond just raising awareness or hoping that consumers sympathize with our cause. We need to achieve real and long-lasting consumer behaviour change if we are to save the world’s endangered wildlife.” 

In summer 2012, WWF and TRAFFIC launched a global campaign to raise the profile of illegal wildlife trade as a serious crime and to spur governments and international institutions to tackle it as such.