Organized Crime Threat to Wild Species on the Increase, Says UN on Wildlife Day Tue, Mar 3, 2015

UN General Assembly Marks the Day with Special Session

Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues.

Geneva, Nairobi, New York, Vienna, 3 March 2015 - The Second World Wildlife Day, themed "It's time to get serious about wildlife crime" is being observed around the world, Tuesday.

On this occasion, President of the General Assembly Sam Kahamba Kutesa, will host a special World Wildlife Day Commemorative session this week, where Member States and the global community will examine the challenges to and opportunities for stepping up international efforts to combat wildlife crime at a global scale.

Once an emerging threat, wildlife and forest crime today has transformed into one of the largest transnational organized criminal activities, alongside drug trafficking, arms, and trafficking in human beings. Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted in his statement for the day that: "Illegal wildlife trade undermines the rule of law and threatens national security; it degrades ecosystems and is a major obstacle to the efforts of rural communities and indigenous peoples striving to sustainably manage their natural resources. Combatting this crime is not only essential for conservation efforts and sustainable development, it will contribute to achieving peace and security in troubled regions where conflicts are fuelled by these illegal activities."

The number of elephants killed in Africa annually is in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 per year out of a population of 420,000 to 650,000. According to recent data from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as many as 100,000 were killed in a three-year period from 2010 through 2012. For forest elephants, the population declined by an estimated 62 per cent between 2002 and 2011. Poached African ivory may represent an end-user street value in Asia of US$165 to US$188 million of raw ivory, in addition to ivory from Asian sources.

According to new figures released today by CITES, overall elephant poaching rates remained virtually unchanged in 2014 compared to 2013, and still exceed natural elephant population growth rates, meaning a continued decline in elephant numbers overall is likely.

CITES reports that 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone in 2014 - this translates to one rhino killed every eight hours. Approximately 94 per cent of rhino poaching takes place in South Africa, which has the largest remaining populations. The involvement of organized syndicates has seen poaching rise from less than 20 in 2007 to over 1,000 in South Africa in 2013, and rhino horn poached in 2014 is valued at an estimated US$63 to US$192 million.

The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) reports that the illicit traffic in live great apes is an increasingly serious threat to chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos in Africa and orangutans in Asia, with seizures averaging 1.3 per week since 2014. Many more great apes die during capture and captivity than ever enter the illicit traffic; it is estimated that a minimum of 220 chimpanzees, 106 orangutans, 33 bonobos, and 15 gorillas have been lost from the wild over the last 14 months, according to GRASP.

The Spix's macaw, the bird portrayed in the animation "Rio" by the friendly character "Blue", is one of the most endangered species on the planet. Today there are only 80 Spix's macaws in the world, the majority of which are kept by foreign bird keepers (in Spain, Germany and Qatar).

Pangolins, also known as 'scaly anteaters' are among the world's most trafficked mammals on earth, with over one million animals taken from the wild in the past decade.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is launching new initiatives to halt the illegal trade in wildlife in Asia and Africa. These initiatives will tackle wildlife crime by focusing on law enforcement, regulations, and engaging the private sector and strengthening collaboration between governments within and across the two regions.

In mid-2014, UNODC launched a "Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime" - a comprehensive, four-year initiative to build government capacity in preventing and combating these crimes at regional, national and local levels, and to raise awareness to reduce demand for wild fauna and flora. The Global Programme is working for, and with, the wildlife law enforcement community to ensure that wildlife crime, illegal logging, and related crimes are treated as serious transnational organized crimes.

The illegal trade in precious timber such as rosewood is also lucrative, well organized, transnational and involves corruption. Substantial volumes of CITES-listed rosewood are smuggled from Madagascar, Southeast Asia and Central America. Between June 2011 and June 2014, more than 4,800 tonnes of illegal Rosewood that originated from Madagascar were seized by authorities in various countries in Eastern Africa and Asia. In December 2014, Hong Kong Customs made a seizure of 92 tonnes of non-declared "Honduras rosewood" arriving from Guatemala via Mexico. Illegal trade in "Siamese Rosewood" from Southeast Asia has also escalated in recent years.

Events and observances around the world

In addition to the UN General Assembly session, where Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton will deliver opening remarks, World Wildlife Day is being marked by events around the world. In New York, the WCS Central Park Zoo is featuring a high-level expert panel discussion on the links between wildlife trafficking, organized crime and sustainable development, moderated by ABC Nightline host Dan Harris. It will be followed by a reception with the Indonesian celebrity advocate and Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) Ambassador, Nadya Hutagalung.

Other observances are being held around the world, including: Cairo, Kruger National Park, Lima, Nairobi, Seoul, Vienna, at the Geneva airport, and at the Berlin Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB). Two Spix's macaws will arrive at 6 a.m. in Sao Paulo, Brazil, today as part of a programme to return this species to the original Brazilian habitat.

Quotes

UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark

"World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate wildlife, but it is also a wake-up call to get serious about wildlife crime. We must all do more to halt the illegal trade in wildlife. UNDP and its partners are committed to this task."

UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov

"Wildlife crime is a transnational organized crime generating billions of dollars and undermining development. It is also an inter-generational crime that can permanently scar the world through the loss of some of our most beautiful creatures. To stop this, we must act now."

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner

"While there is growing awareness about wildlife crime, the responses to date in terms of impact have not been commensurate with the scale and growth of the threat to wildlife and the environment. The scale of wildlife and forest crime in threat finance calls for much wider interventions and policy action."

CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon

"The situation is serious. We must tackle the poaching, transport and consumption of illegally traded wildlife and in so doing use the same sorts of enforcement tools, techniques and penalties used to combat other serious crimes, such as trafficking in drugs or persons. We know what needs to be done - and by working together we will succeed."

About World Wildlife Day:

On 20 December 2013, the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 3, the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as World Wildlife Day. This day provides the ideal opportunity to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora, recall the privileged interactions between wildlife and populations across the globe, and raise awareness of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.

www.wildlifeday.org

About CITES:

CITES - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora -

is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.

www.cites.org

About UNDP:

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in more than 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.

www.undp.org

About UNEP:

UNEP, established in 1972, is the voice for the environment within the United Nations system. UNEP acts as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment. UNEP work encompasses:

assessing global, regional and national environmental conditions and trends, developing international and national environmental instruments and strengthening institutions for the wise management of the environment.

www.unep.org

About UNODC:

Established in 1997 through a merger between the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Centre for International Crime Prevention, UNODC is a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime, operating in all regions of the world through an extensive network of field offices. UNODC is mandated to assist Member States in their struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism. In the Millennium Declaration, Member States also resolved to intensify efforts to fight transnational crime in all its dimensions, to implement the commitment to counter the world drug problem and to take concerted action against international terrorism.

www.unodc.org

Media Contacts:

CITES:

Juan Carlos Vasquez, juan.vasquez@cites.org, +4122 917 8156

UNDP:

Sangita Khadka, sangita.khadka@undp.org, +1 212-906-5043

Wynne Boelt, wynne.boelt@undp.org, +1 212-906-6860

UNEP:

Laura Fuller, Laura.Fuller@unep.org, +1 202-974-1305

Shereen Zorba, shereen.zorba@unep.org, + 254 788 526 000

UNODC:

Simone Monasebian, monasebian@un.org, +1 917-294-5762

Bianca Newby, Bianca.newby@unodc.org, +43 126060 83107

Spokesperson for the President 69th Session of the General Assembly:

Jean-Victor Nkolo, nkolo@un.org, +1-212-963-8203

 
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