Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks announced today that Germany will step up its commitment to fighting illegal wildlife trade. At a wildlife conference hosted by the British government in London the Minister stressed that "we must prevent a future where people will have to look in their history books to see elephants, tigers and rhinos". The summit, initiated by Prince Charles and Prince William, is being attended by Presidents, Ministers and high-ranking delegates from around the world.
"In many regions of the world poaching has reached such dimensions that what we are currently witnessing is tantamount to a sell-off of natural assets", Minister Hendricks commented. She went on to add that illicit wildlife trade was also "a disaster for the people in the affected regions". International criminal groups and terrorist organisations are focusing more and more on this highly profitable sector, which causes serious security problems and fosters corruption and poverty.
The London conference unites African and Latin American countries that are affected by poaching and transit and target countries in Asia where there is a growing demand for wildlife products such as ivory. Besides Germany and the UK, other western partners such as the USA and France are also represented.
The negotiations in London are striving towards a declaration which maps out a common approach to the issue. For example, wildlife crime is to be categorised worldwide as a serious crime to allow authorities to efficiently prosecute poachers in countries where wild animals are endemic and to disrupt the activities of criminal groups. Another goal is to offer targeted support to the local people suffering from the poaching crisis and to win them over as partners in species conservation. Target countries must considerably reduce their demand for illegal wildlife products.
"The conference is a big step forward in the international fight against illegal wildlife trade", Environment Minister Hendricks stated. "We will continue our commitment and intensify it even further."
An example of such commitment is the assistance the German government provides for the training of rangers and management of protected areas in Africa. It also supports the work of customs authorities and campaigns to reduce demand for wildlife products. The Federal Environment Ministry initiated and supported an international conference for the protection of the African elephant in Gaborone/Botswana in December 2013. The London conference builds on the results achieved in Botswana. There is also ample support for an initiative led by Germany and Gabon - a Group of Friends which will bring together UN ambassadors in New York to advance the fight of the international community against illicit wildlife trafficking.