World Wildlife Day: AfDB on the front lines in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade

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Less than two years ago, on December 20, 2013, the UN proclaimed March 3 (the date of adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES) World Wildlife Day. Its goal is to celebrate our planet's wealth of fauna and flora, and raise the awareness of the general public to this cause. The wake of this Convention saw the organization on February 12 and 13, 2014, in London, the Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, which was attended by more than 60 countries and international organizations.

Marrakesh Declaration

Well aware of the need, or rather urgency, to preserve the riches and biodiversity of the African continent, the African Development Bank did not wait for the UN or the London Conference to engage in this fight.

Back in May 2013, the Bank, in conjunction with its annual conference and in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), launched an international call to "fight the illegal trade in wild fauna and flora". The London Conference has, to a certain extent, been based on this Marrakesh Declaration by AfDB and WWF, which takes the form of a 10-point action plan.

The extent of the illegal trade

Worldwide trafficking in wildlife amounts to US $19 billion per year, according to WWF figures, and Africa is one of the main targets for poachers and other predators engaged in the illegal wildlife trade.

The top victims are elephants, hunted for their ivory, and rhinos for their horn. In 1980, there were 1.2 million elephants in Africa. Now, there are 500,000 at most. 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa in the 2010-2012 period alone; Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia are the countries most affected by trafficking. More expensive than gold, the price of ivory nearly tripled between 2010 and 2014, fuelled by a rising demand in Asia. Rhinoceros horn is sold for up to 50,000 euros, says the WWF. 2014 marked a sad record in South Africa, which is home to more than 90% of the rhinos still at liberty in the world: 1,020 rhinos were killed there for their horn between January and the end of November 2014.

At this rate, if nothing is done, the continent could see its protected species disappear by the end of the century. And it does not end there: poaching and illegal trade fuel criminal networks trafficking in arms and drugs, and finance conflicts and terrorist organizations.

Poaching threatens development and the most vulnerable

Back in Marrakesh, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka emphasised the need for urgent action and the severity of the crimes of poaching and the illegal pillaging of the natural resources of the continent: "Our people, our natural resources and our very economic development are in danger."

In the speech he made in London from the platform of the Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade on February 12, 2014, Kaberuka added: "The illegal trade in wildlife is undermining the foundations of our development, its natural resources".

There is an urgent need to act and mobilize to preserve the biodiversity of Africa.

The AfDB is also calling on governments, organizations and citizens to urgently mobilize in this fight to protect the biodiversity of Africa. "I call on all leaders in Africa and elsewhere to invest in the future of our region, by all possible means, to strengthen law enforcement and criminal justice for these crimes," Kaberuka urged in Marrakesh. The AfDB President has repeatedly stressed how much this fight, going beyond governments, institutions and associations, concerns all Africans – as he does in this video by AfDB partner WWF.

The following statement was made at the end of the Marrakesh Declaration: "Failure to act will have consequences that extend far beyond environmental concerns – it will exacerbate insecurity and conflict, undermine development, and threaten livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable populations in Africa."

Do you want to get involved and join the fight against the illegal trafficking of wildlife? Email (Please include your name, organization and country).

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