The trade in wild plants and animals is a complex and challenging issue, which many governments and organizations internationally have struggled with to reduce illegal and unsustainable elements. The countries that have signed the Central America - Dominican Republic – United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) are no exception to this challenge. There is a clear need to understand the drivers of illegal and unsustainable trade in wildlife to formulate approaches to improve the capacity of government authorities to enforce existing laws and regulations in a coordinated manner. Governments need to work with stakeholders to support management of wildlife and deter any illegal activities that are currently commonplace.
TRAFFIC, North America office
TRAFFIC North America (TRAFFIC) in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) received a grant from the U.S. Department of State for a project designed to undertake an overview “gap analysis” related to priority issues concerning implementation of wildlife trade controls in the CAFTA-DR signatory countries of Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. This project’s primarily goal is to assist CAFTA-DR countries with better implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and wildlife trade regulations, by guiding TRAFFIC’s capacity building approach and activities within the CAFTA-DR environmental cooperation context. The project undertook analyses of the best approaches to strengthen capacity at local, national and regional levels to improve the implementation and enforcement of existing wildlife laws, in particular, CITES. This gap analysis does not cover timber related concerns however, as another CAFTA-DR implementing agency, the U.S. Forest Service, is supporting efforts to address trade in that commodity specifically. In this report ”Central America” refers to those countries that are party to the CAFTA-DR agreement, therefore Belize and Panama are not included under this grouping.
The information contained in this gap analysis was obtained from desk research and detailed questionnaires that were distributed by mail, in person and via e-mail to each of the CITES Scientific and Management Authorities as well as other stakeholders in each of the countries, including law enforcement agencies. Response rates to questionnaires were lower than originally anticipated at the beginning of the project. In addition, over the past year TRAFFIC held in-person interviews at a number of key meetings and workshops including CAFTA-DR Coordination and Implementation meetings and Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD) CITES Expert Group meetings. These were quite useful
Gap Analysis components: Main wildlife trade issues in each country Species of concern in national and international trade Wildlife protection legal framework Authorities responsible for developing and implementing national and international legislation Familiarity with CITES among key actors Key ports of entry where CITES control and monitoring takes place or could take place Description of the law enforcement chain and key actors Communication, coordination, and collaboration among authorities Available materials, human and financial resources for implementation and management Existing national training/capacity building schemes for agencies addressing wildlife issues opportunities in terms of developing contacts with government departments and agencies and in particular, CITES Management and Scientific Authorities, as well as understanding how CITES is implemented and coordinated in Central America.
After vetting country-specific assessments with each country, TRAFFIC has produced this regional report that synthesizes information from each of the six country assessments and makes recommendations for regional capacity building approaches. This analysis includes an overview of the legal structure and functional ways that wildlife trade is managed in CAFTA-DR countries. The analysis also includes a synthesis of recommendations and strategies focused on reducing illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade by improving the capacity, technical skills and knowledge among authorities, enforcement staff and other persons involved in wildlife management and enforcement of wildlife laws. This analysis will provide both a useful framework for guiding TRAFFIC’s capacity building work in the region in cooperation with CAFTA-DR countries and will also provide a way to promote communication and facilitate cooperation among key authorities responsible for wildlife law enforcement and management. This regional report will be in the public domain but will not attribute capacity needs, gaps or challenges to any particular country without that government’s approval. We are grateful to the governments of each of the CAFTA-DR countries for their cooperation in working with TRAFFIC on this project.
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