Nairobi/Geneva, 17 November 2008 – In an effort to stop the escalation of rhino poaching and to break up criminal networks involved in the increasing illegal trade in their horns, the Rhinoceros Enforcement Task Force of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is meeting in Nairobi from 18 to 19 November 2008.
The CITES Rhino Task Force brings together wildlife law enforcement officials from range, transit and consumer countries to facilitate the exchange of intelligence on rhino-related crimes. The following countries and territories are represented at the meeting: mainland China, Hong Kong S.A.R., Kenya, India, Mozambique, Nepal, South Africa, Thailand, the United States of America, Viet Nam, Yemen and Zimbabwe. The officials involved include CITES Authorities, Customs and police officers, a special agent and a national parks law enforcement officer. Representatives of the CITES Secretariat, Interpol, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime will also attend.
Commenting on the importance of the meeting, Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary-General of CITES, stated that "the escalation of rhino poaching in recent weeks is threatening the success of conservation efforts undertaken by African and Asian countries over the last 20 years. Although rhinoceros populations are increasing in some areas, there is no room at all for complacency".
Rhinos are poached for their horns, which are used in traditional medicines or as dagger handles. CITES banned international trade in this product in 1977. After suffering greatly from poaching in the 1980s and 1990s, some rhino populations started to recover in Africa and Asia following the implementation of conservation programmes. However, armed conflict and political instability in parts of Africa as well as a resurgent demand in Asian markets have been undermining those efforts in some areas. At least 40 white rhinos have been reportedly poached in national parks and game reserves in South Africa this year. In Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the number of illegal killings has increased dramatically over the past few months. As for the northern white rhino found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the situation is critical.
CITES Enforcement Task Forces have previously been established to tackle wildlife crimes related to tigers, falcons and great apes. Outcomes of such meetings have included guidance on gathering and analysing crime information and intelligence, specialized training, identification guides and awareness-raising materials. The networking opportunities also enable enforcement officers from around the world to collaborate more effectively.
The CITES Secretariat is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme.
Note to journalists: Task Force members will be available for interview by the media at the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi, at 5pm on Wednesday 19 November 2008.
For more information, please contact
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media, on +41 79 596 57 37, or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anne-France White, UNEP Associate Information Officer, on Tel: +254 (0)20 762 3088; Mobile in Kenya: +254 (0)728 600 494, or E-mail: email@example.com
Juan-Carlos Vasquez, CITES media officer, at +41-22-917-8156 or firstname.lastname@example.org.