By Confidente Reporter
THE just-concluded fourth Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) has identified corruption and illicit financial flows as enabling factors in the illegal trade of, among other animals, African lions. This was the conclusion of the meeting held in London recently which saw high-level participation from governments, private sector and NGOs in focusing the attention of the international community on previous commitments to tackle IWT as a serious organised crime. The conference was held under the idea of strengthening international partnerships across borders and beyond government. It focused on tackling illegal wildlife trade as an organised crime; building coalitions and closing markets. The meeting took place, shortly after the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, made his first visit to Namibia and other African nations, in preparation to the conference. In the run-up, the London- based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has noted significant new developments, such as the creation of a new financial task force and a coalition of technology giants committed to combatting illegal wildlife trade online. EIA hosted an exhibition on big cats at the conference, which was also visited by Prince William. The exhibit successfully raised the profile of the threatposed by trade to big cats globally – from jaguars in Latin America and lions in Africa to tigers in Asia. According to EIA, it welcomes the Declaration of Actions and Commitments arising from the event under the previous IWT declarations and existing international agreements and, in particular, applauds the recognition of convergence of IWT with other serious forms of crime. “We are, however, disappointed in the absence of a stronger call for closure of legal domestic markets for parts and products of elephants, big cats, pangolins and other species threatened by trade,” said EIA’s Debbie Banks. “While eradicating the market for illegal wildlife is a major theme for this Conference, the Government of China continues to issue permits for legal trade in leopard bone and pangolin scales. As the Conference comes to a close, the clear message has been that the ‘time for action is now’. This must be more than just a sound-bite.” Banks indicated that they welcome the prominence given to the fight against corruption in the declaration. The conference heard first-hand accounts of how corruption is impeding the practical implementation of laws, policies and practices to combat wildlife and forest crime. “The real test now will be how much further forward we are with that in the very near future because the clock is ticking very loudly for many threatened species,” she said. “We look forward to working with the UK government and other stakeholders to ensure that words are turned into action and existing commitments are implemented.” EIA investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Their undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers, and forest crimes, such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops, such as palm oil. The organisation works to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing; seeking an end to all whaling; and addressing the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
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