Over the past year, WWF has led a global campaign to stop wildlife crime by elevating the global response to the growing poaching crisis faced by elephants, rhinos and tigers, which also threatens frontline rangers, national economies and regional security.
On Sept. 26, thousands of miles from the nearest herd of wild elephants, in the jungle of New York City, several unprecedented commitments were made to change the trajectory at two high-level events.
At the Clinton Global Initiative(CGI), WWF was one of five conservation groups that announced a three-year, $80 million commitment to “Stop the Killing, Stop the Trafficking, Stop the Demand.” This strategy will catalyze a global movement to protect key elephant populations from poaching while reducing trafficking and demand for ivory. Taking the stage with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, leaders from six African nations also led a call for other countries to adopt trade moratoria on all commercial ivory imports, exports and domestic sales of ivory products until African elephant populations are no longer threatened by poaching.
It's dead serious
As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at $7-10 billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting. Notorious extremist groups have also moved into ivory poaching to fund terror operations.
“We know how to solve this crisis. What’s been missing is a united front from governments, NGOs and the private sector to scale up resources to stop the killing and crush the demand. Look at what has been done with conflict diamonds and fur from endangered species,” said Carter Roberts, president & CEO of WWF-US, who participated in the CGI commitment event. “The more people are aware of the consequences of what they buy, it changes what they do. We need to do the same with elephant ivory and rhino horn and tiger bone.”
Ensuring continued coordination
Later that afternoon, at the United Nations, the German and Gabon governments hosted an event for heads of state and ministers on wildlife crime, featuring WWF and government leaders. Gabon President Ali Bongo thanked WWF and other conservation groups for their help with the ongoing poaching crisis and called for the creation of a special representative on illicit wildlife trafficking within the UN system. His proposal was seconded by the UK government and others. WWF-International Director General Jim Leape also called for a UN General Assembly resolution to raise the issue to the highest levels and a permanent group on wildlife crime to ensure continued coordination.
Jan Eliasson, the deputy secretary general of the UN, told the audience, "Murder and violence go hand in hand with this despicable business. It is a threat to peace and stability, security and human rights. Let us send a powerful message that we are united against these organized criminals."
Increasing consumer demand for ivory, particularly in Asia, is causing the price of ivory to skyrocket and is driving elephant poaching. Today’s ivory traffickers are primarily well-organized syndicates that operate as transnational criminal networks and often participate in other illegal activities, including trafficking in narcotics and weapons, and with links to terrorist networks. The poachers not only threaten the lives of elephants, but at least 1,000 park rangers have been killed in the line of duty over the past 10 years, as they try to protect elephants and other wildlife.