Johannesburg - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is implementing a strategy to strengthen its fight against poaching and the illegal trade in flora and fauna, with law enforcement being a major factor in the battle.
Political will, leadership, a legal and institutional framework and resource allocation are some of the key issues which need to be incorporated to successfully fight poaching, a Sunday panel discussion by conservation and wildlife experts stated.
“The background and threats to the continued fight against poaching include abundant natural resources, more than 75 percent of rural communities depending directly on natural resources for their livelihoods, tourism, jobs and food security,” Russell Taylor, a conservation adviser from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Namibia told the audience.
The illegal logging and timber trade constitute about 20 to 30 percent of the total timber trade.
There has been growth in the illegal timber trade in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.
More than 4 000 tons of illegal, endangered rosewood timber was seized in transit, from Madagascar to destination countries, between November 2013 and April 2014. Cross-border illegal timber trade from Tanzania is worth $8 million R109m) annually.
Fish stocks are under threat from legal but unsustainable and over-exploited fishing activities, as well as illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, constituting between $10 billion and $23bn annually.
The most acute threat facing African elephants arises from large scale poaching and the illegal ivory trade.
Continental poaching levels have exceeded natural population growth rates since 2010 with southern Africa supporting 70 percent of Africa’s population.
Eastern and Southern Africa are home to approximately 25 000 rhinos (less than 5 000 are black). Over 95 percent of rhinos occur in SADC range states.
Rhino poaching has increased dramatically since 2007 when 61 rhinos were poached to last year, when 1 331 were killed for their horns. South Africa’s rhino population has been the hardest hit as it has the continent’s largest numbers.
The drivers of poaching and the illegal trade in flora and fauna include poverty, poor governance which creates a “permissive environment” for poachers and local and international criminal networks and syndicates. The increasing demand for wildlife products, growing bush meat demand and trade, and organised crime were also critical factors behind poaching.
SADC’s strategy for fighting this includes enhancing legislation and judicial processes, minimising wildlife crime and the illegal trade, and integrating people and nature into conservation and development processes.
Ensuring sustained trade in, and use of natural resources as well as improving and strengthening field level protection of wildlife resources are also critical.
African News Agency