The General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted its first resolution on ‘tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife’. The resolution is a historic step towards tackling the organised criminal networks who profit from the illegal killing of some of the world’s most iconic species.
The UN Secretary General has now been tasked with presenting an annual report on global wildlife crime and countries’ implementation of the resolution, together with recommendations for further action. The resolution urges Member States to make illegal trafficking in protected species of fauna and flora involving organised criminal groups a “serious crime” and to harmonise national legislation.
In South Africa, the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act of 2004 prohibits anyone from carrying out a restricted activity involving any threatened or protected species without a permit. This includes hunting, catching, killing, exporting, importing, possessing, growing, breeding, trading in and translocating or moving any living specimen of a listed or threatened species.
South African species that are particularly vulnerable to poaching are elephants, lions, abalone, tortoises, orchids, cycads and, most notably, rhinos. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) reported that, in 2014, over 1 215 rhinos were poached in South Africa, which translates to one rhino killed every eight hours.
Hopefully the UN resolution will spark the firm and concerted international action desperately needed to combat poaching and those who profit from it.