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Speech by Minister Barbara Creecy at the official opening of the Global Wildlife Programme Annual Conference

29 October 2019

Erwin De Nys, Program Leader, Southern Africa, World Bank Group
Cecilia Njenga, Head of South Africa Office, United Nations Environment Programme
Jaime Cavelier, Global Environmental Facility Secretariat
Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation, Mr. Shonisani Munzhedzi
Distinguished representatives of the United Nations agencies represented
High-level officials from the Global Wildlife Programme countries from Africa, Asia, and Latin America
Representatives of donor countries, private sector, NGOs, and other partners of the Global Wildlife Programme,
Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you very much for inviting me to join you at this third annual conference of the Global Wildlife Programme. I am pleased to be part of this important platform that provides wildlife practitioners from 29 partner countries and experts an opportunity to discuss approaches to one of the most important challenges facing the global conservation community.

Through this conference, we hope to build alliances between the private sector, local communities and international partners. We need an approach that integrates communities, socioeconomic development, and wildlife conservation in a practical manner.

The conference takes place at a time when global attention has been focused on the outcomes of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. This report confirmed species and ecosystems around the world are in rapid decline and concludes 25 per cent face extinction.

Our own National Biodiversity Assessment made similar findings on the decline of species and ecosystems, noting that 12 percent of our species are categorised as threatened. Equally importantly, our National Biodiversity Assessment emphasised the economic importance of biodiversity employment in Southern Africa. In our own country alone, the study found 410 000 people are in biodiversity related employment.  

Delegates to this conference who are practitioners in the wildlife management, will have an opportunity to exchange ideas on how to stop illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, improve law enforcement and exchange views on best practice as well as up to date data on what is being traded, where the trade is occurring and what, if any, trends are emerging.

A major threat to these legitimate economic opportunities is the international illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. Wildlife crime is also now the fourth most lucrative form of organized crime in the world, and is estimated to be worth $23 billion per year.

It threatens local community development and livelihoods, local and national revenue streams, undermines the rule of law, is a threat to the existence of iconic species and compromises local and global security.

The poaching of charismatic species such as elephant and rhinoceros prevents sustainable rural development since it reduces the tourism potential of natural habitats. Wildlife crime also promotes ecological degradation, counteracts conservation efforts and poses a threat to the sustainable development and use of natural resources.

Wildlife trafficking and the illegal wildlife trade is not purely a conservation and environmental management problem, but constitutes a highly sophisticated form of serious transnational organised crime that is a threat to national security. Our own experience tells us that wildlife crime is often associated with trafficking of weapons and narcotics.

To date, interventions aimed at ending the poaching crisis have focused first and foremost on sustaining rural economies and livelihoods and secondly on protecting animals from extinction as well as protecting biodiversity. Though these efforts have proven effective in terms of creating jobs in the biodiversity sector and increasing arrests, they require additional focus. International trade policy and enforcement experts from around the world agree that more resources are required to fully understand the dynamics of international trafficking syndicates and to deal with them effectively.

As a result, South Africa has had to adopt an innovative national strategic response to wildlife crime which is based on 5 pillars namely:

  1. Responsive legislative provisions
  2. Community intervention,
  3. Biological management,
  4. Law enforcement, and
  5. Building supportive partnerships

The prevention approach is informed by the need to provide communities with alternative livelihood strategies which would in turn dissuade them from participating in wildlife crime. The Biodiversity Economy Phakisa is a primary vehicle for creating nature-based livelihood strategies for rural communities that live alongside the conservation areas where rich biodiversity occurs.

The Biodiversity Economy provides communities with a range of wildlife based livelihood options that include tourism, game management, environmental awareness and protection, game ranching and bioprospecting.

Communities have to be empowered to either benefit from the sustainable use and development of commercial resources within the conservation areas, or be assisted to find alternative livelihoods in line with the fulfilment of their basic human rights. The National Biodiversity Economy Strategy for South Africa focuses on the legal trade of species in the country through a strong and transparent permitting system. The Biodiversity Economy has the goal of achieving an average annual GDP growth rate of 10% per annum by 2030.

With regards to biological management, our approach has been two fold, in that alongside increasing our formal ranger numbers we have also appointed community rangers and environmental monitors. We have 118 environmental monitors who are augmenting the work of our field rangers in Kruger National Park as part of our community based response to wildlife crime.

With regard to our law enforcement operations, we have prioritized rhino poaching in particular as a matter of national concern. In this regard, the South African Police Service has declared the illegal killing of rhinos and the illegal trade in rhino horn as a priority crime.

As a result, policing and prosecuting are fundamental to the new strategic approach to counter wildlife crime recognising that it is not only an environmental concern, but has evolved into a serious organised crime and national security threat in South Africa, which requires focused law enforcement. In this regard, we have seen a steady increase in the numbers of arrests made and successful prosecutions.

The final element of our strategy is partnerships. It is not possible for government, or indeed South Africa to respond to the scourge of wildlife crime alone. We require cooperation with our neighbouring countries and the global community. Partnerships play an important role nationally and internationally in awareness-raising and partnership development with communities living around national parks, and enhancing consultation with the private sector in an attempt to standardise practices and procedures, including enhanced security measures.

The Global Wildlife programme builds and strengthens partnerships by supporting collaboration amongst national projects, captures and disseminates lessons learned, and coordinates with implementing agencies and international donors to combat illegal wildlife trade globally. National projects within the GWP form an integral part of a community-of-practice that promotes the sharing of best practices and technical resources.

In this regard, we welcome the decision to launch our first project implemented under the banner of the Global Wildlife Programme. This project entitled “Strengthening institutions, information management and monitoring to reduce the rate of illegal wildlife trade in South Africa’ will run from 2019 until 2024. 

As one of the projects within the Global Wildlife Programme, the Global Environment Facility has provided a $4.9 million grant. An additional $7 million in co-financing has been committed by the South African government, World Wide Fund for nature (WWF-South Africa), and Peace Parks Foundation.

The project is also supported by the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre as well as the Secretariat for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. 

The programme aims to fight  illegal wildlife trade through strengthening institutions and improved information management, including the development of a ready-to-use CITES e-permitting system; and through strengthening community governance mechanisms for sustainable livelihoods and community monitoring. Under in this project South Africa will develop participatory natural resource management practices and enterprise-based sustainable livelihoods for local communities surrounding Kruger National Park.

Through this programme we are hoping to further develop the discourse on the interface between wildlife, biodiversity and development.

As I conclude, I want to remind you that after the discussions here, we are looking forward to showing you the practical examples of our work in our flagship Kruger National Park.

I hope that you will enjoy the interactions with the communities who have very real stories to share with you about people and conservation. Kruger National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Its iconic wildlife and landscapes are an important component of South Africa's economy and the livelihoods of the communities that live around the park.

South Africa is richly endowed with flora and fauna and unique ecosystems. Our country’s Constitution places an obligation on us to ensure the protection of the environment, and to take reasonable measures to secure the ecological sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

It is my hope that the deliberations during this conference will strengthen our approaches and provide an opportunity to foster common understanding between partner countries with a view to enhancing our responses.

I wish you all well in your deliberations and a successful conference as you enjoy South Africa’s hospitability.

I thank you


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