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Germany hosts forum on illegal wildlife trade’s impact on sustainable development

At the Woche der Umwelt in Berlin experts of non-governmental organisations met with German President Gauck to discuss policies to stop the illegal wildlife trade.

Berlin, Germany, 8th June 2016—As part of the fifth annual "Woche der Umwelt", which showcases innovation in environmental and nature conservation, experts from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, non-governmental organizations including TRAFFIC, and private sector representatives met this week at the invitation of the President of Germany, Mr. Joachim Gauck, to discuss the challenges posed to sustainable development from poaching and the associated illegal wildlife trade.

The meeting, hosted by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), asked participants to examine possible solutions to address the complexities of the current poaching crisis that could be implemented along the entire illegal supply chain of wildlife trade, from Africa to Asia. 

Dr Yannick Kuehl, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director for East Asia Changing consumer behaviour isn’t a quick fix solution—but it needs to happen before the time runs out on threatened wildlife. Dr Yannick Kuehl, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director for East Asia

Dr Yannick Kuehl, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director for East Asia was among the invited panellists and outlined the efforts being made to change the behaviour of consumers in Asia towards certain illegal wildlife products. He emphasized that these efforts need to be strategically aligned with measures to reduce wildlife trafficking and poaching in source and transit countries.

“A shift in attitude away from purchasing illegal wildlife products will inevitably lead to drop in demand which is a major driver of the poaching crisis,” said Kuehl.

“Changing consumer behaviour isn’t a quick fix solution—but it needs to happen before the time runs out on threatened wildlife.”

Kuehl noted that rising prosperity in east and south-east Asia presented a critical imperative and opportunity for consumers to lead the way with more sustainable patterns of consumption that have been evident elsewhere. 

Earlier this year, Germany was among the governments who supported a workshop in Hong Kong where more than 100 behaviour change experts and practitioners met to formulate innovative approaches and action plans to change the knowledge, attitudes and practice of consumers of illegal wildlife products.

Panel Forum Umwelt 2016, Schloss Bellevue, Berlin(© Roland Melisch / TRAFFIC)
Panel Forum Umwelt 2016 (Photo: Roland Melisch/TRAFFIC)
Another panellist at this week’s forum was Dr Christof Schenck, CEO of the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), who spoke about the devastating impact of the African poaching crisis on people in the region and the toll on wildlife which saw more than 1,300 rhinos poached Africa-wide and up to 30,000 African Elephants illegally killed every year in recent years. 

Germany’s Polifund measure is coordinated by GIZ. It supports TRAFFIC with implementing capacity building to improve the efficiency of the struggle against the illegal trade in ivory and rhino products through cross-sectoral law enforcement cooperation between Africa and China as well as within Africa, such as through Africa-TWIX, the Africa Trade in Wildlife Information eXchange platform and with the identification and piloting of approaches to reduce demand in user countries in Asia. The Polifund measure is also backing the FZS with implementing anti-poaching measures in parts of southern and eastern Africa—at the other supply end of the trade chain. They include providing surveillance technology like digital radio and GPS for a newly established anti-poaching command centre in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania – a project that was recently visited byGermany’s President.
Education has a key role to play too, and the forum highlighted the efforts being supported by Germany to engage the Chinese business community living in Africa, through a series of educational events held at the invitation of the Chinese authorities in Kenya, Ethiopia, and most recently in South Africa and Mozambique, which TRAFFIC co-organized and provided technical input.
Klemens Riha, GIZ In Africa and elsewhere, local communities are a key element to any solutions: they have the most to lose and the most to gain of anyone. Klemens Riha, GIZ

Mr Christian Schröder, Sustainability Manager at Wikinger Reisen GmbH - a tour operator based in Germany with destinations around the globe - spoke about the role the globe’s tourism sector can play in helping to address illegal wildlife trade and the poaching crisis. He noted that especially Germany is a major origin of tourists travelling across the world. “If not drastically reduced, the poaching and illegal trade of wildlife will threaten tourism and development options in Africa,” said Schröder. 

The panellists concluded that addressing the complex challenges posed by illegal trade in wildlife products requires long-term solutions involving national, regional and inter-sectoral approaches. Solutions were needed that engaged local communities in Africa, whose natural resources and land are caught up in the crisis and whose livelihoods often depend on flourishing local wildlife. 

“In Africa and elsewhere, local communities are a key element to any solutions: they have the most to lose and the most to gain of anyone—the world cannot simply stand by and let criminals rob these people of their very future,” concluded Klemens Riha of GIZ, co-ordinator of the Polifund measure of the German government to combat wildlife crime in Africa and Asia.