Wildlife crime continues to capture the international headlines. Poaching and illegal wildlife trade have always been problems, yet with the apparent involvement of international crime syndicates a true crisis has developed!
If no drastic actions are taken against the poaching pandemic where it occurs and the trafficking of wildlife parts starting at the origin and following the illicit trade routes all the way to the consumer the survival of many species, not only enigmatic ones like the elephant and the rhino, is seriously threatened. This all is evident not only from the media and the research reports circulating, but also from the outcome of the various high-level summits which have taken place on the subject, culminating in the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade in February.
To date, the focus of these meetings has been mainly on the actions which can be taken at the international level, mainly that of governments and to a lesser extent that of international organizations. Local initiatives and grass-root projects have been mentioned, without getting the weight they deserve, however.
Yet, the illegal killings take place at the local level. It stands to reason, therefore, that the full involvement and support of the local people who live with their wildlife assets, is more than essential. The same applies to the involvement of the private sector, which drives many, if not all successful conservation initiatives in Africa and indeed the world. Governmental and international institutions alone will fail to induce and control efficient action in the areas where the wildlife occurs and poaching and trafficking are rampant.
At least 30 million hunters around the world so far have been sidelined completely and none of the high-level conferences even acknowledged the resources of this group. Hunters are managing and conserving wildlife on a day to day basis. They are in the places where wildlife roams, including most endangered species. IUCN and others have repeatedly acknowledged that legal, well-regulated and sustainable hunting is an important component of wildlife conservation, with a proven track record. Hunters have demonstrated with their actions on the ground that they are a reliable partner in the global efforts to contain wildlife crime. In many cases, the mere presence of hunters alone acts as a powerful detriment to poaching; the hunting infrastructure in developing countries assists local residents to earn legitimate economic benefits instead of having to fall for the lure of short term illicit gains with the high risk of falling foul of the law; last not least, a desirable cooperation between hunting and eco-tourism enterprises can further reduce the criminal temptations of the syndicates and their middle men.
At the historic and first of its kind World Summit Against Wildlife Crime, which will take place during the 2014 General Assembly of the CIC in Milan, Italy on 24th April 2014, hunters will showcase their past involvement in the struggle against wildlife crime and show new ways how conservationists of all creeds and colors can work together to get results. The Summit is organized as an urgent response by hunters all over the world, who are concerned by the new dimensions which wildlife crime is taking, including an increase in the prevalence of organized crime.
This summit will demonstrate the potential of mobilizing the hunters in the world to strengthen the global fight against wildlife criminals. It will also serve to highlight what more the hunting community is capable of contributing to this fight.
The current face of wildlife crime requires an overhaul of the present wildlife management processes. Hunters and hunt operators, national and international hunting organizations constitute a powerful force in the world’s fight against wildlife crime. In an alliance with governments, conservation NGOs and all people of good will hunters can serve as a strong and efficient force to substantially support enforcement efforts against wildlife crime. It is worthwhile again to point out that the fight against wildlife crime will be won or lost at the local level – right there, where hunters are. This Global Summit represents a clarion call for the global hunting community to join together and partner with all interest groups committed to arresting and reversing the present crisis. We hunters love wildlife and we want to see it not only survive, but prosper within habitats of natural beauty.
The Global Summit will, for the first time, bring hunters together with an international group of government officials, wildlife conservation leaders and law enforcement professionals to discuss a range of bi-lateral and multi-lateral actions. Hunters are committed to take immediate and measureable action and to halt the current wildlife crime crisis.
The CIC welcomes all participants and is looking forward to positive discussions at the Summit and to sharing the outcomes of the event. Readers of African Indaba will find the results in the next issue.
Finally, I like to thank the editors of African Indaba that they have made wildlife crime and illegal wildlife trafficking the focus of this year’s General Assembly edition. The profound articles and the well-researched news offer excellent background information. The new African Indaba website will facilitate spreading important conservation news on Africa, and the facelift with the eye-catching design by Aliz Ertler gives African Indaba a better exposure. African Indaba with its wide readership in more than 130 countries has developed into a professional journal. We are proud that it is the official CIC Newsletter on wildlife conservation and hunting in Africa.
For further details on the CIC Milan Summit, please consult the official website of the event. The CIC is looking forward to positive discussions at the summit and to sharing the outcomes of the event.
Author: Bernard Lozé, President of the CIC