Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom and Minister for Asia and the Pacific
- UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
It is thought that at least 10,000 living species are becoming extinct each year, and it may well be many more. There is a striking correlation between the rate at which the world’s human population is increasing and the rate at which other species are becoming extinct. Phenomena like climate change and pollution, both of which drive habitat loss, play their part. So too does the illegal wildlife trade and the trade in animal products.
The illegal wildlife trade is the fourth most lucrative transnational crime after drugs, arms, and human trafficking, and it threatens some of the world’s most iconic species with extinction. On average, at least two rhinos are killed every day, and in the last ten years, more than 150,000 elephants have been slaughtered by poachers. This horrific trade generates as much as US$20 billion each year, fuels corruption and undermines good governance and the rule of law.
In the UK, we are committed to eradicating the illegal wildlife trade. We are working to ensure that illegal wildlife products don’t make it into the UK and that, where they do, they cannot be sold. We are determined to prosecute and convict those involved. On Friday, October 6, we launched consultations on proposals to make the UK’s regulations on domestic trade in ivory amongst the strictest in the world. In 2014, the UK hosted the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade and in 2018, we will be inviting global leaders back to London for another conference to build on what we have achieved so far.
Global problems require global solutions and international partnerships are fundamental to driving real progress on this shared challenge. I was therefore delighted to visit Colombo last week and hear first-hand about the steps that the government and conservationists are taking to tackle the problem the country faces.
Sri Lanka is home to a remarkable number of plants and animals that are not found in any other country in the world. For example, Sri Lanka is home to more than 50 endemic species of orchids alone! The rarity of all these animals and plants makes them remarkable; it also makes them valuable and vulnerable.
The steps that Sri Lanka has taken and is taking to counter the illegal wildlife trade are welcome. So too is its willingness to work with international partners in this field. The destruction last year of seized ivory at Galle Face Green sent a powerful message: we must not and will not let this criminal activity pay. With Sri Lanka’s growing importance as a shipping hub, its customs will become more and more important in disrupting this appalling trade.
The steps that Sri Lanka has taken and is taking to counter the illegal wildlife trade are welcome. So too is its willingness to work with international partners in this field
I am encouraged that Sri Lanka will be hosting in 2019, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species [CITES] of Wild Fauna and Flora in Colombo. The aim of CITES is to ensure that international trade in species of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
With political will and wider commitment, we are keen that Sri Lanka would set an example and serve as a model of good practice in this region and beyond. More work would be needed to keep the delicate conservation balance right as tourist numbers grow. Sri Lanka’s wildlife is a key attraction to visitors and preserving this, is essential to sustain and grow the tourist industry in the long term. In countries like Sri Lanka, far-sighted and rigorously enforced national park strategies are needed to guard precious natural heritage. There can be no place for illegal activities including unlawful timber felling.
In the last ten years, more than 150,000 elephants have been slaughtered by poachers. This horrific trade generates as much as US$20 billion each year
Much has been achieved in the last few years, although there is still much to be done. Coordinated and united action by countries around the world is going to be vital, if mankind is not to become its own worst enemy. Sri Lanka and the UK share a strong interest, with partners around the globe, in winning the global fight to end the illegal wildlife trade.