A joint effort by the international community could save the endangered animals
In January this year China made history by destroying, for the first time, a huge stockpile of confiscated ivory in the city of Dongguan. Six tonnes were pulverised in crushing machines, demonstrating very publicly China’s commitment to fighting for our natural environment. I know a similar event is being planned in Hong Kong.
Now, more than ever, is the time for such bold moves. Between 2007 and 2012 rhino poaching increased 5000%; only 3,500 tigers remain in the wild; and Central Africa has lost two-thirds of its elephants since 2004. The scale of destruction is terrifying. Poaching is no longer just an occasional and opportunist crime, but a serious criminal industry linked to some extremely dangerous groups.
African countries know only too well the damage that poaching does to their societies and the effect it has on the species that are traded illegally, elephants and rhinos most devastatingly of all. The numbers of animals killed by poachers are increasing at an alarming rate, and once gone these species are gone forever.
But the illegal trade in these animals is not just an environmental tragedy. The profits of poaching can potentially fund and sustain the armed groups threatening Africa, and contribute to the networks threatening societies across the world. Fighting over animals drives conflict in Africa; the profits from poaching sustain global organised crime networks; the loss of these species destroys tourism and keeps societies in poverty. And all of this creates a cycle of instability.
We know, in an interconnected world, that we can all suffer from when one country suffers. We rely on stability in Africa for access to food and natural resources, and to deny terrorist groups the space to operate. It is in our interests to help those at the front line of the poaching crisis, in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, to prevail.
"We know, in an interconnected world, that we can all suffer from when one country suffers. We rely on stability in Africa for access to food and natural resources"
The good news is that the international community working together can defeat these ruthless groups. That is why this week in London I will be chairing a conference aimed at tackling the trade in illegal wildlife products with attendance from governments across the world. We need a global effort to end poaching.