Irina Bokova, Director-General, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and John Scanlon, Secretary-General, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), have released a joint statement on the impacts of recent and escalating poaching in West and Central Africa. Poaching, they write, is transforming living forests into deserted spaces and causing immeasurable damage.
Bokova and Scanlon highlight the industrial scale of poaching, where in Gabon, 11,000 elephants have been illegally killed since 2004 and in 2012 alone, and almost 700 rhinoceros have been poached in South Africa. They lament the incursion of an armed militia into the Sangha Trinational transboundary World Heritage site, where at least 26 elephants in the Central African Republic were killed in a few days. They stress that crimes against nature like poaching ultimately weaken the foundations upon which communities are built and hope to prosper.
Despite the fact that UNESCO’s World Heritage sites and biosphere reserves were created to provide the highest level of protection and management available for natural sites, they note that to address poaching, the international community must support national and local agencies, and countries must engage in greater cooperation. Finally, Bokova and Scanlon write that concerned stakeholders must strengthen their ties, because joining forces is the only way to fight this rise in organized crime against great mammals.